Brookmead Food Pantry Garden to be Expanded to Meet Need

Last year UVLT began a Food Pantry Garden at our Brookmead Conservation Area on Turnpike Road in Norwich. The garden at Brookmead was created so that UVLT could use the land to serve the whole community by growing food that would be donated to Willing Hands and distributed to our neighbors in need. By planting the garden at Brookmead we wanted to continue our mission of bringing people together to conserve land that makes our communities more resilient, healthy, and sustainable for all.

In 2019 we planted ⅛ of an acre of winter storage crops that Willing Hands told us were most needed. We managed this garden using mainly volunteer labor and all the produce was donated to Willing Hands. In 2020 we had planned to double the size of our garden to ¼ acre and plant a wider variety of vegetables.

Garden Volunteers at the 2019 Potato Harvest Party.

However, in light of the skyrocketing need for food assistance in our Valley due to Covid-19, UVLT has committed to growing ¾ of an acre, the whole field and 6 times as many vegetables this year. We are confident that we are a resilient community that can come together to create local solutions and help each other in times of need.

This is an enormous leap in production for UVLT staff but we are ready to take on the challenge and contribute what we can, using our land to benefit those who need it most. We have secured seeds for this year to plant the entire ¾ of an acre, and tilling and new fencing will begin soon.  This year we plan on planting peas, carrots, radishes, onions, potatoes, winter squash, kale and a few other crops to help feed our neighbors in need.

The first round of seed deliveries. More of each of these plus onion sets and seed potatoes are on their way.

There are many ways you can join us in this effort! We need volunteer labor to make this project come to life. Whether you’re a master gardener or have never set foot in a garden we need you! Garden volunteer work will not start until mid to late May, we’re not asking anyone to congregate in the garden at this time, and will be following best practices and public health guidelines as we do this work.

Volunteer activities will include bed and row prep, planting, weeding, and harvesting vegetables for our neighbors in need of fresh food. Assignments will be made and overseen by, Alison Marchione, UVLT’s Programs Director. No prior experience is necessary and every bit of help counts. If social distancing recommendations continue into the growing season we will be following all recommendations and providing guidance for volunteers to work individually or in small family groups. If you would like to volunteer, please send an e mail to Alison at We will add your name to the volunteer list so that when the time comes we can call on you to help.

Garden Volunteers hard at work mid-summer 2019

If you can’t volunteer you could contribute financially either by making a donation today to UVLT or by donating or purchasing some of the following equipment needs.

  • Baskets/buckets/laundry baskets/garden totes for harvesting into
  • A wheelbarrow and a garden cart
  • Garden tools but most importantly regular and stirrup hoes and hand tools (Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own tools if they have them and prefer to use them; for those who come without tools, we’ll be cleaning UVLT’s tools after each use.)

Finally, you can follow us on social media. Find us on Instagram or Facebook and follow along with the story of our garden. Alison and Paul will be out there each week making sure things are taken care of and volunteers have jobs to do and we will be sharing those stories from the field with all of you.

We hope that you will join us in doing what we can to help our community. Please email Alison if you have any questions. We are all in this together.