Home News and Features BIPOC Community Garden Opens at Country Club Road

BIPOC Community Garden Opens at Country Club Road

Kalé Camara, the manager of the new BIPOC community garden sponsored by Just Basics, Inc., stands in front of the just-plowed garden plot at Montpelier’s Country Club Road property. Photo by Cassandra Hemenway.
Montpelier is about to have a new community garden, one with both food and land justice in mind and “centered on black and brown folks … and their friends and family of any race,” according to garden manager Kalé Camara. Located next to the city of Montpelier’s Feast Farm on Country Club Road, the new BIPOC community garden is a project of Just Basics, Inc., a nonprofit organization that runs the Montpelier Food Pantry.

“We serve a really diverse group of people, homeless people, people who work, all races, all ages, people from different countries. It’s probably a perfect microcosm of Montpelier and the surrounding area,” said Jaime Bedard, the executive director of Just Basics, adding that a BIPOC community garden fits with Just Basics’ vision, and is “one of those easy ways to do reparations.”

The idea of the BIPOC community garden originated in a collaboration between Jennifer Silverman, a former Just Basics employee, and Shanda Williams, a “Changemaker, Reparations Activist, Equity Strategist, and BIPOC Community Advocate” according to her website. Out of that collaboration, Just Basics had planned to set up a BIPOC community garden for more than a year, noted Bedard. The project saw a few delays and was about to get off the ground when the July 2023 flood wiped out the garden site.

Williams asked around in the BIPOC community, she said, and found Camara (“An amazing human! We are so lucky to have found them!”). Standing in front of the recently plowed plot of city land located on the Elks Club golf course, Camara said “this is going to be one community resource to help folks access land for free.” Half the garden will be for individual gardening plots, and the other will be for the community and educational purposes, Camara said.

Asked how land and food justice fit into the concept of the project, Camara pointed to Williams and Silverman’s original vision of a “healing space.”

“There’s a lot of violence and there’s a lot of strife when it comes to different communities of color,” Camara said. “Beyond the land, a lot of us have been dispossessed in the land we’re on, forced to move, some of us have been forced to work the land under really brutal conditions. And so, the idea is to kind of create a space for healing and reparations for black and brown community.” 

Added to that, Camara pointed out that the central Vermont BIPOC community is diverse and includes new Americans, refugees, and immigrants from all over the world. With that kind of diversity in mind, Bedard said she sees the BIPOC garden as a place where people can grow the kind of vegetables they miss from home that might be hard to find locally.

“The very act of land being dedicated to the use of the BIPOC community is a powerful action of care and reparations. I hope that this garden in Montpelier sets a precedent for more such gardens to pop up in other areas of the state and even beyond,” Camara said in an email to The Bridge.

The garden was only approved by the Just Basics board a week ago and is in the early stages of getting organized, despite the growing season being in full swing. But the space for it is plowed and ready, and Camara is reaching out to the community to get started. High in the list: acquiring tools, a shed, and seeds for an eventual seed bank.

“Empowering people to grow their own food is certainly a food justice tenant. That’s something that we would like to be able to empower people to be able to do. Not everybody has a plot of land. It’s nice to be able to give people that space if they have the desire to [grow],” Bedard said.

The BIPOC community garden has grown out of the muck of last year’s flood and the collaboration of community, something Williams said “is going to be a lasting testament to Montpelier’s faith in the power of RESILIENCE!”

An opening ceremony for the garden will be held on Thursday, June 6 at 6 p.m. at the Country Club Road site. Those interested in joining the garden or donating materials should contact Camara at kale@justbasicsvt.org.