Build local capacity to grow food.
Community Garden Connections (CGC) builds local capacity to grow food and enhances personal and communal well-being among those most impacted by climate change and other social, economic, and ecological injustices.
CGC’s education and outreach enhance community resilience through installation and cooperative maintenance of 70+ raised garden beds alongside social service agencies and nonprofits. CGC offers safe places for community members to get outside, learn, and connect through gardening. Amidst Covid-19, CGC pivoted its programming to offer virtual workshops, educational materials, 150 “container gardens,” over 1,000 pounds of donated fresh produce, and take-home soup kits to the community.
Since its founding in 2011 by Antioch University New England, CGC staff have planted, harvested, and donated over six tons of food to the local community kitchen. They have engaged more than 1,000 community members, 25 partner agencies, and hundreds of graduate, undergraduate, and high school students. CGC is led by a team of student coordinators with support from faculty advisors, Drs. Jean Kayira and Libby McCann.
CGC’s most loyal and generous donor has been The Aaron Rashti Family Foundation stewarded by Stacey R. Decker ’08 (Antioch New England, MS in Environmental Studies) and Stephen Decker ’08 (Antioch New England, MS in Environmental Studies).
In the coming years we want to expand educational opportunities for our gardeners, deepen our relationship with community partners and continue to increase access to healthy food and healthy environments.
Why Community Gardens?
Community gardens provide access to healthy landscapes, enhance our connections to outdoor environments, create strong social networks, increase self-sufficiency and local food security, and increase wellness. Gardening provides an affordable, nutritious food source. It cuts across social, economic, and racial barriers to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds.
The CGC is committed to fostering access and interest in healthy food and environment by:
- Increasing access to healthy, affordable foods and thereby increase community food security
- Contributing to the City of Keene’s goals for addressing climate change by increasing food security
- Building community members’ capacity to grow and cook healthy, affordable food and benefit community members’ physical and psychological health through gardening
- Creating opportunities for AUNE students and faculty to engage in service-learning and applied research projects related to agriculture and sustainability that support community-identified priorities
- Fostering a stronger sense of community through the creation of green, communal spaces
Over the past eight years, our efforts have involved 13 community non-profits and social service agency partners and established 68 raised-bed gardens throughout the Keene, NH area. Across initiatives, CGC will have donated over four tons of garden-fresh produce to the Keene Community Kitchen by the end of the 2019 season, and developed research and evaluation protocols to track programmatic impact. In the coming years, we will continue in these efforts and implement new projects to further our mission.
To support CGC’s efforts, an Advisory Committee consisting of individuals from organizations throughout the Keene community provide expertise to our efforts. Their contributions and guidance help to ensure long-term success of this program.
Joy Ackerman, Faculty, Antioch University New England
Karen Balnis, Service Learning and Internship Coordinator; Keene State College
Andy Bohannon, Director – City of Keene Parks and Recreation Dept.
Phoebe Bray, Executive Director, Keene Community Kitchen
Julie Davenson, Executive Director, Stonewall Farm
Melinda Garland, Executive Director of University Marketing, Antioch University
Jess Gerrior, C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc. Doctoral Fellow; Antioch University New England
Gina Goff, Sr. Director of Community Involvement; C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc.
Sarah Harpster, Gleaning Coordinator, Keene Community Kitchen
Carol Jue, Garden Volunteer, Harper Acres Garden of Eatin’, Keene Housing Authority
Ken Jue, Executive Director, Ken Jue and Associates; MFS Executive Director emeritus, Monadnock Family Services (MFS) and Board Member, Children’s Alliance of NH
Dr. Karrie Kalich, Health Sciences – Early Sprouts, Keene State College
Rhett Lamb, Director ; City of Keene Planning Department
Amanda Littleton, District Manager – Cheshire County Conservation District
Jan Maes, Kitchen Garden International
Christine Parshall, Nutrition Connections – UNH Cooperative Extension
Linda Rubin, Director -Healthy Community Initiative; Healthy Monadnock
Roe-Ann Tasoulas, Director; Monadnock Farm and Family Coalition
Tom Wessels, Faculty Emeritus, Antioch University New England
Marilun Wyzga, The Cornucopia Project
Ruzzel Zullo, SDS Service Coordinator, Monadnock Developmental Services