Upper Valley Land Trust to grow fresh veggies for those in need

CHARLESTOWN, N.H. – The Upper Valley Land Trust is partnering with the Claremont Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry to grow food for those in need through an expansion of UVLT’s Food Pantry Garden Program. “The Claremont Soup Kitchen is very excited to have the opportunity to partner with the Upper Valley Land Trust to bring fresh produce to our guests” said Claremont Soup Kitchen Executive Director Cindy Stevens. “The Claremont Soup Kitchen has many guests that come daily to see what is offered on our farmstand. This partnership will allow us to provide many more options. We are truly thankful to be able to offer such a great service to our community.”

This collaborative Food Pantry Garden is run primarily by volunteers and UVLT is actively seeking community members interested in helping out in the garden. The garden is located at Up on the Hill Conservation area, a property that UVLT owns and manages off of Richardson Road in Charlestown with land in Claremont, and Unity, N.H. as well. This 1,100-acre property is mostly forested but also has excellent agricultural land. This year UVLT set aside 5,000 square-feet and turned it into a garden with a variety of seasonal vegetables.

“Using the agricultural land that we own for the good of everyone is really important to us,” said UVLT’s Programs Director Alison Marchione, who runs the Food Pantry Garden Program. “Our conservation areas aren’t just about trails and recreation – we can do more than that. There are people in our communities who are hungry and we have the ability to play a role in alleviating that problem. Conservation land is for everyone.”

The Food Pantry Garden Program began in 2019 at Brookmead Conservation Area in Norwich, Vt. After two successful seasons and 4,000 pounds of produce donated to Willing Hands, a local food reclamation and distribution nonprofit, UVLT applied for a New Hampshire Charitable Foundation grant to expand the program to Up on the Hill. The foundation’s environmental opportunity grant program provides small one-time grants to New Hampshire organizations involved in the intersection of community and environment. Now, UVLT is asking volunteers to turn that generous funding into food by volunteering at the Food Pantry Garden to feed our neighbors in need.

Karina Ricker was excited to break ground on the new project this spring. “I wanted the opportunity to learn about land conservation, food security, and food systems. This internship seemed like the perfect way to learn about the intersection of all three things,” said Ricker, UVLT’s Patchen Miller intern. “The chance to help expand the program to a whole new area and be in on the ground floor of that work was also really appealing to me.”

UVLT is a nonprofit land conservancy that works in 45 Vermont and New Hampshire towns in the Connecticut River watershed, providing conservation leadership, tools, and expertise. The lands UVLT protects are places where people of all ages can participate in the stewardship of natural resources, learn about forests and farming, and enjoy being in nature. Founded by Upper Valley residents in 1985, UVLT has conserved more than 52,000 acres of land and owns and manages 22 conservation areas. These include working farms, forested ridges, wildlife habitat, water resources, trails, and scenic landscapes. Most of the conserved land remains in private ownership, protected by permanent deeds known as conservation easements.

Volunteers run the gardens and plant, weed, water, and harvest produce. UVLT is actively seeking more volunteers to join their efforts. Community workdays are Thursday nights from 3-6 p.m. Individual work and projects can be arranged, and service and business groups are encouraged to reach out for specialized service days. All ages are welcome, including children under 15 with an adult. No experience is necessary. For more information, to go www.uvlt.org/food-pantry-garden.

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