CHESTER, Vt. – As the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020 and the reality of lockdowns and quarantines brought discussions of food security to the forefront, a group of Chester residents began having Zoom meetings to exchange ideas about growing food and the renewed importance of home gardens. During those meetings, the idea of expanding a traditional community garden to include a large community greenhouse was raised, sparking an enthusiastic discussion of bringing a community greenhouse to Chester.
Just six months later, the group had formed a nonprofit Vermont corporation called Chester Community Greenhouse and Gardens with the motto “Helping the Community Grow.” The organization is led by a diverse volunteer board of directors, with decades of collective experience in horticulture, ecology, alternative energy, environmental activism, community planning, nonprofits, economic development, and sustainable food production.
The organization planned a two- to three-year initiative to erect a community greenhouse. Then good fortune intervened. The group became aware of an historic, 1937 Lord & Burnham greenhouse that was being taken down in Walpole, N.H. and contacted the contractor doing the removal. Within weeks, the 100-foot-long, galvanized steel and iron greenhouse frame was donated by Deconstruction Works, disassembled, loaded onto a trailer, and moved to Chester where community volunteers answered a call for assistance and carefully unloaded the greenhouse components into donated space in a local barn.
The group has discovered that the original blueprints for the greenhouse are on file at the New York Botanical Gardens and are working to obtain copies of those blueprints to assist with an engineering assessment and energy-efficient retrofitting and reassembly of the greenhouse so it can become a space for multi-season growing, educational and mentoring programs, a safe and accessible place for seniors and those with disabilities to garden, and a place to explore solutions to address food security, climate change, and sustainable economic development.
Chester Community Greenhouse and Gardens President Cheryl Joy Lipton stated, “We see this as something that can bring us all together as a community. Our vision of the greenhouse and gardens is that it becomes a beautiful and inviting gathering place for everyone living in and visiting our town, a place of education, sustainability, and resilience in a turbulent world, and a place to look for guidance from each other, in addition to vegetables and flowers. In other words, we are working toward the Chester Community Greenhouse and Gardens to be a true community center, meant to be in the town’s center, both physically and figuratively.”
After receiving a seed money grant from the Windham Foundation, Chester Community Greenhouse and Gardens is launching a major fundraising campaign to support the greenhouse construction and program development.
Those interested in getting involved or supporting the project can visit the organization’s new website at www.chestergreenhouse.org.
Donations can be made directly on the website or by check to Chester Community Greenhouse and Gardens, P.O. Box 1271, Chester, VT 05143.
The organization is seeking input from the community on possible sites for the greenhouse as well as what programs should be offered once the greenhouse becomes a part of Chester’s landscape.