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‘Today Is My Lucky Day’: Vt. Gardeners Collect Free Plants, Compost

The annual Garden Day, organized by a local nonprofit, aims to support people with affording the costs of gardening to grow nutritious food.

A nonprofit agency that supports Vermont residents seeking economic independence took a "fresh" approach to nutrition Friday.

On its 30th annual Garden Day, the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity distributed seeds, seedlings, plants, soil and compost to people looking to start a summer garden.

"Today is my lucky day — I got all this for free," said Zainab Osman of Burlington, referring to a trunk full of tomato plants, pepper plants, melon plants, compost and more.

Osman, who came to Burlington from Somalia, said she is planning a plot for her community garden space.

CVOEO, which works toward economic, social and racial justice, offered donated plants and seeds at a giveaway in the parking lot of the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.

Many people who stopped by the event can struggle at times with the cost of food, organizers said, so CVOEO aimed to deliver fresh produce and tips on how to grow veggies in buckets or other containers for folks who don't have gardens.

"I have a little freezer, so I freeze my food I grow in the summertime — I freeze it for winter and save my money," Osman said.

Travis Poulin of Chittenden Community Action, a program of CVOEO, said roughly 10% of Vermont households don't always have access to nutritious food.

"Oftentimes, when you're going grocery shopping, some of the most expensive things you're going to buy are fresh, locally grown, organic produce," Poulin noted.

Poulin said the Garden Day offerings can help people stretch their limited food budgets.

Edith Wilkerson, who is originally from Ghana, said she so appreciates this help with her summer garden, adding that she promises to pay it forward.

"And I will share with my elderly people when everything comes," Wilkerson said of her neighbors. "Vermont is number one for me!"

Judging from the crowds at Friday's giveaway, it's looking like it'll be a busy summer for green thumbs.

Poulin thanked the donors who made the 30th annual Garden Day possible, including the Intervale Community Farm, the Vermont Community Garden Network, High Mowing Seeds, American Meadows, Green Mountain Compost, and students from the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, who helped plant and grow seedlings ahead of the giveaway.

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