Thursday June 04, 2015
South Burlington non-profit Common Roots boasts numerous programs in the school district and throughout the community, which connect farmers, educators, youth, and families around the theme of plant-based education. Much of the programming executed by the non-profit is hands on, with educational opportunities ranging from introducing students to new fruits and vegetables in the classroom to engaging middle school students in after school cooking classes.
While the organization maintains 50 raised beds at the Farm at South Village for hands-on learning opportunities in an outdoor classroom setting, Common Roots is looking to expand. They are hoping to make use of a portion of the prime agricultural land on the Underwood Property.
The Underwood Property, an undeveloped 60 acre gem bordering Spear Street and Nowland Farm Road was acquired by the City of South Burlington with open space funds in 2013. Last year, a task force was created to generate ideas for how to use and preserve the property. Common Roots Program Director Kindle Loomis, who served on that committee, has developed a proposal for the non-profit to utilize 4 acres of the land for the 2015 growing season.
At the June 1 city council meeting, Loomis presented a plan to use a portion of the land in a way that would benefit student engagement. Common Roots’ proposal involves turning over 4 acres of prime agricultural land, planting a cover crop on 3.75 acres, and planting a .25 acre portion with carrots, beets, and kale. These are crops that require minimal water, since there currently is not a water source on the site. The South Burlington Land Trust has generously offered to offset the cost of the project by providing machinery needed for the process.
Common Roots also has the farming aspect covered. The non-profit has an 8 year existing relationship with experienced local farmer, Greg Sol, who was on hand Monday evening to offer perspective on the land. Sol said there is still plenty of time to plant a crop this season and doing so will help give the organization, and the community at large, a good idea whether the soil truly is “prime” in that location (as soil maps indicate). The process will also help determine if larger scale production would be viable in the future.
By expeditiously getting this process started, opportunities will be available for students participating in the School’s Out summer programming to get their hands in the dirt, thinning rows of carrots and learning about the land, according to Loomis.
Councilors were unanimously supportive and City Manager Kevin Dorn will draft a MOU (memorandum of understanding) to present at the next council meeting for potential approval.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent