Community Teaching Garden Alumni Story Project, Part III: Gardening for Life

“One of the things I really appreciated about [the Community Teaching Garden] was the accountability…”  For Meredith Evans, those first years of meeting regularly in the garden built a whole new set of life-long skills, a commitment to gardening, and a love for the act of growing.  Meredith and fellow CTG graduates, Beth Wood and Angie Linstrom, continue to garden together at Starr Farm Community Garden in the New North End of Burlington.

MeredithEvans-CTGAlumProject-CTG-2013Meredith Evans – Community Teaching Garden Alumnus, 2009-2012

Meredith Evans got involved with the Community Teaching Garden (CTG) after her roommate brought her to a talk about the course by Jim Flint (founder and former director).  Meredith had been a part of a community garden a few years prior, but left the garden disappointed by the experience of an overgrown garden and without the support she needed to be successful.  The CTG seemed like a great opportunity to gain the knowledge base and connection to other gardeners that she was looking for.  However, Meredith was hesitant because she understood the amount of time and commitment a garden takes.

After much urging from her roommate as well as a personal phone call from Jim himself, Meredith signed up.  “I decided to join and then do it for 3 more years, so clearly it was a good idea.”  Ultimately, the commitment required of her through the class was just what Meredith needed:  “One of the things I really appreciated about [the Community Teaching Garden] was the accountability of having to go; because that keeps your garden under control and you don’t get to the stage of ‘where are my plants?’”  She also valued having the CTG instructors, to be able to ask, ‘What is this, right here?’ and get immediate answers.

Following that first year, Meredith returned to the class for 2 additional years as a CTG.2 student, honing her gardening, preserving and cooking skills.  Reflecting back on her 1st year with the Community Teaching Garden, she recalled the amazing experience of planting from seed—“to see, you grew that!”  She remembers wondering where the Brussels sprouts were going to grow out of the plant and seeing carrots with their tops on. In her 2nd and 3rd years she became more thoughtful about what she planted and how she was going to use it.  She nailed down recipes that she really liked to make, like a special veggie burger recipe, and then grew a bunch of carrots and beets to make a big batch all at once.  Meredith also had fun experimenting with different varieties—“Every year you’re like, ‘Oh, this is a new discovery!’”

Not only did the Community Teaching Garden bring Meredith a whole new set of life-long skills, she also developed relationships that would continue long past CTG days.  Meredith and her roommate, Beth Wood, took the class together where they met Angie Linstrom and her 2 kids.  Meredith, Beth, and Angie became fast gardening buddies and continued the program together for all 3 years.  After they left the CTG, Jim offered them his community garden plot at Starr Farm, where all 5 of them continue to garden today.  They meet together at the garden at least once a week in the summer. “We each have seasons when we slack off and feel like we don’t want to go, but then someone else is like ‘I love the garden!’  We have a really good connection.” She explains that her experience at the Community Teaching Garden built her confidence to go out on her own and have her own plot that’s “the same square footage as a house!”

Heading into her 6th garden season, Meredith continues to appreciate “sitting down for a meal and knowing you grew all this.”  She’s committed to seeing her garden through each year because she’s put in the work.  Every year, she says, “I come out ready to go and then I wonder, ‘Where did summer go?  I’m not ready to be done with it.’”  Carrots and sweet potatoes continue to be Meredith’s favorite vegetables to grow, because you never know what it’s going to look like when you pull it up; it’s new each time, even after all these years they still bring her the joy of a beginner gardener.