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July 22, 2011
Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications

Duke Energy Foundation and Pierson Family Foundation Partner to Fund Green Mountain College Lawn-to-Edible Garden Project

POULTNEY--Americans are increasingly dusting off garden implements to plant vegetable gardens-in most households, these gardens are relegated to the back yard, out of sight from the well-manicured front lawns and flowerbeds.

Now, home gardeners are considering the advantages of putting food production onto the front lawn, especially if they live on small property lots.

A $25,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation and a $10,000 grant from the Pierson Family Foundation will support installation of a demonstration "lawn-to-edible garden" project in front of the College's Solar Harvest Center on Granville Street. Funds will also be used to restore the Center's front porch, which overlooks the garden, to offer an educational gathering and dining space.

Philip Ackerman-Leist, director of the College's Farm & Food Project and principal investigator for the grant, sees the project as much more than using underutilized property to boost food production.

"There is a social and aesthetic aspect to front-yard gardens," he said. "Edible gardens can be visually appealing-a lot more interesting than manicured grass. Putting the garden 'front and center' also helps build community around the idea of locally grown and prepared food, even on the scale of one garden, one family."

The Green Mountain College project ties together several aspects of the Solar Harvest Center, a farmhouse purchased by the College in 2009. Adjacent to the College's Cerridwen Farm, the building is the home base for several GMC academic programs including an undergraduate major in sustainable agriculture and food production and a new graduate program in sustainable food systems. The Center also houses classroom space, offices for staff and faculty involved in the College's Farm & Food Project, and free office space to regional agricultural nonprofits including the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL).

Central to several current initiatives at the farm, a commercially-certified teaching kitchen was installed in 2010, also through funding from the Duke Energy Foundation and the Pierson Family Foundation. It provides students, local farmers, and community members with facilities for nutrition education, product processing and fresh food access. This kitchen provided critical leverage for a $100,000 project recently funded by Jane's Trust to test flash-freezing of local food products for schools and nursing homes and the charitable food system.

Once restored, the front porch will provide a community gathering place for educational discussions about intensive gardening, nutrition, and garden to table practices. Promoting food access for all, the project will feature three-season nutritional food growing demonstrations, walking tours and an online curricular packet.

"The project includes the community in reviving the art of growing and preparing one's own food, sharing it with family and friends, and discussing garden-to-table practices in a learning environment," said Ackerman-Leist. The project also builds on momentum of other College initiatives to help revitalize Poultney including renovation of an historic home owned by GMC into a community meeting building; reuse of a downtown building as a Renewable Energy and Ecological Design Workshop for students and community members; and collaborations with community volunteers in the establishment of the new Stone Valley Food Coop which officially opens tomorrow in Poultney.

Founded in 1834, Green Mountain College is a private liberal arts institution with that takes environmental sustainability as a unifying theme across the curriculum. Green Mountain was named the nation's "Coolest School" in 2010 by Sierra magazine.

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