Scavenger Hunt and Atkins Field Update
What is your favorite thing about Atkins Field? The granite, the garden, the horse, dog biscuits, sunflowers, the pump track, the farmers market, Ramsey burgers, sense of community: these are some of the actual answers penned as part of a scavenger hunt during Kingdom Farm and Food Days August 18.
On that day, 16 teams and individuals tracked down answers in order to win a small random prize from a prize box along with a chance to win a fresh-baked blueberry pie.
The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), with help from Nicko Rubin of East Hill Tree Farm and Hazen and Green Mountain Technical and Career Center students, have started planting a community orchard behind the granite shed. We now have 19 blueberry bushes, 35 raspberry bushes, 29 apple trees, six pear trees, six hazelnuts, three plum trees, and perennials for pollinators in the understory.
This is part of our permaculture plan for the 15-acre property. One of the tasks in the scavenger hunt was to make a love note to a fruit tree in the orchard and tie it to the cage around the tree. Heart-shaped notes proclaiming love for fruit now adorn the young trees, urging them to make more!
CAE partnered for our Kingdom Farm and Food Days event with the Hardwick Farmers Market this year, which brought more customers to the market and more people to see our draft horse demonstrations by John Smolinsky, blacksmithing demonstrations by Lucian Avery and Courtney Mead, learn about permaculture from Nicko Rubin, try a dozen apple variety samples provided by Eden Ice Cider, make felt creations with art teacher Beth LeCours, and play farm games set up by Nancy Notterman of Snug Valley Farm.
While the trees and bushes are making more fruit, we the owners of the field continue to work on more plantings for the orchard, thanks to a grant from the Block Family Foundation. We are building our infrastructure and with it, our sense of community. Surveys and forums have shown strong trends in terms of what Hardwick and the surrounding towns want to see at Atkins Field:
- Keep the farmers market, Springfest, and community gardens, and add to them
- Keep the huge iconic granite shed and create some indoor space
- Build trails and connect the ones we have to more
- Build a sheltered place for outdoor classes, picnics, music, a skating rink, and events
- Create historic and artistic exhibits honoring Hardwick’s working landscapes of the past, present, and future
- Build creative art studio and recycling space, including a “remakery” that could be a way to repair and reuse bicycles, appliances, furniture and other things we’d like to keep out of the landfill.
The CAE is working to accomplish as many of these goals as we can. So far, with the help of partner nonprofits, volunteers, the town, teachers, and students, we’ve expanded the community gardens, added a community hoop house and orchard, put in a bicycle pump track, and built a garden shed for storage.
The existing historic buildings are deteriorating and not safe to enter. After a long process of searching for community partners who might be able to help us financially to use and maintain renovated buildings, we have concluded that there is enough interest and – potentially - enough financial resources to renovate the 350-foot shed but not both buildings. Taking down the smaller workshop building will allow space to put up a multi-purpose pavilion with a history map, photos and historic information. This, combined with markers around the property, will help visitors and locals alike to imagine the working granite site, and place themselves among the footings of giant saws, columns, the remains of a transformer building and other relics still on the site. We are calling it our Granite Junction History Trail.
CAE has raised the bulk of the $141,000 total needed for the pavilion and trail project as we work through this first phase of building development. We have applied for all required permits and grants including Act 250. If all goes well, we will be taking down the workshop and building a pavilion and companion Granite Junction History Trail next spring or summer.
The next phase will be renovating the big granite shed. We will need a design plan that will allow for flood proofing the building and incorporating renewable energy sources. We will work with our partners to determine a maintenance plan for the space. We’ll need more permits, and we will need to raise a much larger amount of money to make it all happen. While the first phase is in progress, we are also beginning to work on our design, budget, and fundraising plans for that next phase.
Thanks to everyone has helped so far. Stay tuned as we wend our way through the process of permits and fundraising. If you would like to know more, donate, or volunteer, please get in touch!
And the next time you are at Atkins Field, take a look at the orchard. You might be as inspired as one of our scavenger hunt teams, who wrote the following poems on their forms:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I saw some apples
What about you?
As red as the sun
You taste good in
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