Community Teaching Garden Alumni Story Project, Part I: Equal Parts Garden and Community

Champlain College“For Lange, the garden meant fresh food to fuel his love for cooking, and a new community with people who shared a new identity at the Community Teaching Garden.”

Mike Lange, associate professor at Champlain College, now manages the Champlain College Community Garden where he carries on the value of promoting “equal parts garden and community.”

Mike Lange – Community Teaching Garden Alumus, 2008-2010

Written by Erin Anderson, 2013 Community Teaching Garden Intern

The Community Teaching Garden brings together a diverse group of people with varying backgrounds and interests. As former student Mike Lange describes it, the unique group of people who join the class each year are drawn to it for varying reasons that have a personal connection for each individual: Maybe it is the time spent outdoors, the meditative manner of weeding, a connection to new people, or access to fresh food and the ability to grow their own food that makes them proud.

“You get a shared ‘something’ but even the way they share it is variable,” Lange said of the shared gardening experience at the Community Teaching Garden.

For Lange, the garden meant fresh food to fuel his love for cooking, and a new community with people who shared a new identity at the Community Teaching Garden. Lange said, “Seeing and feeling how the community functions is part of the fun for me.”

After being away from the Community Teaching Garden for three years, Lange looks back on his time with the Vermont Community Garden Network as positive and memorable for reasons that can best be attributed to the people involved and the energy they brought to class each day.

Lange’s first experience with gardening was with the Community Teaching Garden and he built on this experience, the formal and informal lessons learned, as well as the natural connection to both the land and people, to start the Champlain College Community Garden. In experiencing first-hand the positive effects of a community garden, Lange, who is a professor at Champlain, wanted to share his growing knowledge of gardening and community-building with students at Champlain. He is hoping the garden can become a part of the curriculum for programs such as Environmental Policy at the college. He wanted to offer students the opportunity to experience a gardening community and the satisfaction of growing their own food, just as he did for the first time with the Community Teaching Garden.

The Champlain College Community Garden will be in its fourth season in 2014, and as Lange says, it is “equal parts garden and community.” He shared that starting a new community or garden takes countless hours of work, but experiencing the energy present at the Community Teaching Garden for community and vegetable growing, the task became less daunting and more attainable. Lange’s time with the Community Teaching Garden was valuable not only for his own growing (of vegetables, friendships and knowledge) and his experiments in the kitchen, but also for the students, staff, and neighbors of Champlain College who are able to experience the benefits of a community garden for themselves.

Lange took what he gained from the Community Teaching Garden and created a beautiful new community at Champlain College that will only continue to spread the positive effects of a community garden to others in Burlington and beyond.

Check back for more info on how to sign up for this summer’s Community Teaching Garden or email libby@vcgn.org for more information.