CAE Needs Your Help

by Bethany M. Dunbar, CAE Community Programs Manager

Dear Hardwick community and neighbors:

courtesy photo | Plastics, glass bottles, wrappers and food containers are being discarded in Cooper Brook and at the Atkins Field Pavilion in Hardwick.

It’s wonderful to see the increased activity at Atkins Field this year and so many people enjoying the pavilion and farmer’s market. Atkins Field is a labor of love for the Center for an Agricultural Economy, the nonprofit organization that owns the property. CAE and the community have invested a lot of money, time, and sweat equity into this vision of a shared working landscape and multi-purpose community resource. For years, our vision has been of all sorts of people making themselves at home there, enjoying the gardens, farmers market, trails, Cooper Brook, and orchard. This is coming to pass more and more!

Unfortunately, along with the increased activity this year has come an increased level of people literally trashing Atkins Field, especially the Hardwick Community Gardens. Someone or some folks have been pulling up garden plants that are half-grown and tossing them into the woods or on the ground, messing with the water hydrants, tossing hose nozzles, stealing tools and supplies, and in general acting destructively.

The Hardwick Community Gardens are available for anyone to use. Registration starts in late winter, and beds tend to fill up by spring. There are occasionally spots that open up over the course of the summer. A $20 annual lease is requested for each garden box, but no one is required to pay that fee if they cannot afford it. Vegetable beds are signed out for the year by individual families. Volunteers grow food for the Hardwick Area Food Pantry, and some beds are used by our school partners for educational gardening projects. Gardening is a lot of work and it’s incredibly discouraging to see all that work just flung into the woods.

On top of garden-specific thefts and vandalism, the disrespect for the property is widespread. People are just tossing their food containers, glass bottles, wrappers, and all sorts of other trash, on the ground or throwing them against the posts in the pavilion. On Monday someone or some folks tipped over the porta-potty. We are writing to ask for your help with keeping an eye on things and to please help us take care of the place! We have a small team of folks who manage the property and nowhere near enough people or time to keep an eye on things every day. CAE is proud of the investments we have made in time and energy, and we hope to do much more. But quite frankly this is discouraging. Please help us get the message out that Atkins Field is for everyone. The CAE can’t do it all ourselves – we hope everyone can take some responsibility to make sure it is a welcoming, safe place to enjoy.

We are installing security cameras in hopes of finding out who the culprits are. We’re doing this in order to have a conversation with those folks. We are hoping you will be willing to help us be our eyes and ears and voice to get it under control. Please help us take care of this property and create the culture of respect that it deserves! Thanks to everyone who has helped by picking up someone else’s trash and disposing of it. You are our heroes.

courtesy photo | All sorts of trash is being tossed into Cooper Brook, which borders Atkins Field in Hardwick, according to Bethany Dunbar, Community Programs Manager for the Center for an Agricultural Economy.

If you see someone acting destructive or have any information about vandalism or thefts, please contact CAE Community Programs Manager Bethany M. Dunbar at Garden beds are full right now, but you can get involved by volunteering, getting on a waiting list for when a garden bed becomes available, or join Grow Your Own to receive a monthly newsletter and take a workshop to meet neighbors and learn from each other about gardening, cooking, and preserving our own food.

Thanks for reading this and for your support.