Onions, an experimental crop in 2015

Relentless rain in Vermont this spring and early summer almost nixed the planting of our newly expanded Company Farm, our volunteer effort to feed the hungry here in Vermont. We were able to plant about a month later than normal, and the plants are growing at last. With luck, we hope to pull off a harvest.

For the last two summers, employee-volunteers have planted, maintained and harvested thirty 4′ x 6′ raised beds at our Burlington, VT, campus, growing potatoes to be donated to the local food shelf.

This spring, we expanded Company Farm to the grounds surrounding our Milton, VT, warehouse, where volunteers planted four 15-foot rows of potatoes.

“In 2014, we donated 300 pounds of potatoes,” says David Grist, who heads up the project, “and that was after we lost 80-percent of our crop in a similar spring of rain and more rain. We had to replant after Memorial Day.” This year, planting was delayed even later, but fortunately, the weather finally cooperated and our dedicated team of volunteers was able to plant the crop in early July.


Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) blooms in one of the pollinator beds.

Because of the late start this year, we didn’t plant all the beds. Some remained too wet. Although it was disappointing, we planted a cover crop of annual rye, which will help prevent weeds and improve the soil.

David came up with the idea of Company Farm two years ago. “It was simple.” he says, “Go out and grow some vegetables and give them to people in need.” David manages the Learn and Share section of our website. His idea to turn Gardener’s Supply’s campus gardens into a source of food for the hungry became a reality in 2013, and it grows a little bigger every year.

“The challenge is finding a crop that will thrive in our site,” he says. “Even though our beds are raised, the soil remains quite wet. In looking at other crops that might appreciate our super-moist raised beds, we tried a crop of onions this year, and they are doing OK. Might be that we plant more onions — and fewer potatoes — next year.”

In addition to potatoes, Company Farm has a couple beds that are planted with pollinator-friendly plants, including milkweed, borage and salvia.

Claudia Marshall

Claudia is a former network news anchor and reporter (ABC, CBS News) and public radio music host. Her favorite gig was Soul Music DJ.