Atkins Field

With our community partners, Atkins Field and our community green space is the place for your history, trails, art, family, food and more. Join us! Visit Atkins Field at 100 Granite Street in Hardwick. 

A photo of a farmers market, with grass in the foreground, tents, a few people, and a wooden pavilion in the background. A hand painted sign in the front next to a wooden bridge reads "Welcome! We are so glad you are here."
A sign welcoming visitors to Atkins Field 

Celebrating Atkins Field as a Critical Resource 


If you live in Hardwick, you have probably been to Atkins Field, the stretch of green space at the end of Granite Street. This beloved community gathering place features a large open air field, a timber-framed pavilion, trails, an orchard, and a bicycle pump track. It is also home to the Hardwick community gardens and hosts the Hardwick Farmers Market that takes place every Friday afternoon during the growing season. Atkins Field is open to the public (and their dogs!) and hosts numerous events, workshops, and opportunities to engage and connect to nature and each other.

L: Hardwick Farmers Market | Elizabeth Rossano
R: Atkins Field Flood Resiliency Workshop with Hardwick Elementary School 6th Graders | Reeve Basom

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Teachers often bring their classes to Atkins to have hands-on experiences in nature. In October, 6th grade students from Hardwick Elementary visited Atkins Field for an afternoon of exploring flood impacts and resiliency in our community. A group of Atkins-focused staff from CAE hosted a circuit of stations around the property, each one centered on a different story from the flood, what was learned, and how people can help. Stations included honey bees, soils, hoop house, and Cooper Brook. 

L: Atkins Pavilion on opening day | Bethany Dunbar
R: Horse-drawn wagon rides, Community Farm and Food Celebration | Kent Shaw

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Since CAE took ownership of the 15-acre property in 2008, its use by the community as a place to meet, celebrate, engage, and learn has grown exponentially, with the COVID-19 pandemic only solidifying its status as a critical community resource. Over the years, and especially since the pandemic, we’ve seen the ways that Atkins Field is a critical piece of community connection in the greater Hardwick area. Being able to gather outdoors with resources like electricity, wi-fi, and a port-o-let allows more meetings, workshops, and other activities to take place outdoors. In an era of compounding emotional, mental, and physical stress, access to nature and community are vital to our health and well-being. Opportunities for community connection directly fight the social isolation that has become a serious concern in rural communities like ours. 

L: Peaceful protest at Atkins Field Pavilion | Bethany Dunbar
R: Students from Reach! Hardwick work with Emily Cayer of the Northeast Grainshed Alliance | Reeve Basom

  

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The dedication, hard work, and heart that staff from CAE have put into Atkins Field is palpable, and a huge part of what makes the space a special part of Hardwick. As we begin to think about the upcoming growing season and operations at Atkins Field, we interviewed our very own Bob Duggan, Atkins Field Orchard Manager and jack of all trades. We also discussed his other roles at CAE, including Farm Connex delivery driver and former production staff for Just Cut. His unique perspective broadens our understanding of the connections between the programs of CAE and their significance within the local agricultural system.

Read the interview with Bob 

A message to the community about public safety, September 2023

Dear Hardwick Community Friends,

It has been a tough summer for everyone. We emerged (more or less) from the pandemic and then we were hit by an extreme flood.  We are working through the impacts of the flood, and we’re considering how to rebuild while trying to add resiliency into our plans.

The mounting layers of social isolation from the pandemic and now flood, climate stress, and economic stress mean that more of our community members are experiencing mental health crises, substance use disorder and housing insecurity. We acknowledge that these are community level issues, not just the problems of individuals.

These issues affect our shared work and our public spaces, including Atkins Field where there has been  an increased level of substance use activities. One day recently, two of our staff members working at Atkins were told there was someone unconscious. The person was unresponsive and needed immediate medical attention. We are so grateful to our staff who acted quickly and to the emergency services people who were able to respond immediately and take care of this person. 

As a community, how do we band together to address these challenges in our town? Most of us have a connection with someone who has been impacted by substance use disorder and mental health struggles. These are challenges rural communities across Vermont are facing, we’re committed to becoming informed, remaining involved and engaged. 

As a step in understanding how to respond to emergency situations staff members at the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) will get mental health first aid training. That in itself shows a level of care that makes us proud of our team. For safety and information gathering purposes we have installed and are using security cameras at Atkins Field. Our friends at the Hardwick Police Department have increased patrols at Atkins. We are also hoping to learn more about what causes substance use disorder and how we can provide information and some level of support to those in need. What resources are there? What are the gaps?

This is not our area of expertise. Ignoring or pretending nothing is wrong is not the appropriate response, and this is a difficult message to deliver to the community we love. We are ready to listen, support and learn with this community as response efforts to these issues are activated. 

Please take good care of yourselves and people who are with you. Thank you for your understanding. The saying goes that the opposite of addiction is connection. Let’s stay connected and continue to do our best in these most challenging times.

CAE Community Programs Manager Bethany Dunbar

bethany@hardwickagriculture.org

 

The pavilion at Atkins Field is available to reserve for the season. If you would like to make a reservation, please contact Bethany. Bethany@hardwickagriculture.org 

Hardwick Community Garden: 

A photo of a garden with a greenhouse in the background, and growing kale, and tomatoes in front.

The Hardwick Community Gardens are a vibrant space located at Atkins Field, with picnic tables, tools, greenhouse, shelter and walking paths along the Lamoille River. The Garden’s educational, recreational, social and food security benefits attract a wonderful range of both new and seasoned gardeners, including families, individuals, and school groups. A community greenhouse on the property is shared by residents and the local elementary school.

Hardwick Community Gardens and orchard offer gardening spaces for those who do not have enough physical room at their homes. The gardens are located at Atkins Field on Granite Street in Hardwick and owned by the Center for an Agricultural Economy, a nonprofit organization. The field is the former site of the Woodbury Granite Company and offers trails, an open air pavilion, an historic 350-foot granite shed, and markers of historic relics. The town of Hardwick maintains a bicycle pump track and skating rink in winter.

The community gardens started in a location closer to the village but too close to the Lamoille River where flooding

A wooden bowl with red tomatoes, a green pepper, and purple beets.

was an issue each spring. Flooding from Cooper Brook is still an issue at Atkins Field but not as bad. In 2012, the first raised beds were built because of granite remnants all through the ground, which meant it cannot be tilled. The raised beds help protect produce from flood waters at the same time. The number of garden beds was expanded in 2015 and the hoop house put up in memory of Vernon Alper, a community gardener.

The gardens include 64 gardening spots outdoors and inside the community hoop house, built of rough hemlock and cedar. The property is organic so no herbicides are allowed. The community orchard has more than 49 fruit trees and berry bushes, including apples, pears, plums, seaberries, nuts, blueberries and raspberries. Fruit is free for anyone to take a handful.

Gardeners who qualify for the Hardwick Area Food Pantry (300 percent higher than the poverty line) qualify for one free lease on a garden bed per year. Outdoor beds are leased for $25 a year for all others, and indoor beds and bench spots are $15 for the year. Many gardeners lease more than one bed, three outside beds and two inside maximum. High Mowing Organic Seeds donates seeds. In 2022 we started a collective garden project and grew a successful potato patch. Collective gardeners each ended the season with 25 pounds of potatoes. Hayley Williams in the collective garden project coordinator. In 2023 we are expanding to a few other crops.

A large plastic greenhouse with a white chair in front of the door and green grass in the foreground.

Bob Duggan is orchard manager. Garden bed building and repairs and orchard plantings were done in partnership with Hazen Union School as student community service and learning projects.

For more information please contact CAE Community Programs Manager Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@hardwickagriculture.org.

"I think the garden is the most practical and fun way to be in community here in Hardwick. Every growing season is a new experience and adventurous." 

- Hardwick Community Gardener

Hardwick Farmers Market 

Atkins Field is pleased to be the physical home of the Hardwick Farmers Market. Visit the market every Friday from late May through early October. Thank you for visiting this year, we'll see you again in 2024.  In June, Senator Sanders' team visited the market and created a video about the community, and featured many vendors, staff, and market manager, Hayley! 

 

HISTORY of Atkins Field:

Do you know the history of the Atkins Field property? It’s amazing and fascinating: 
At the turn of 20th Century, Woodbury Granite Company owned Atkins Field, and grew to employ nearly 1,400 people in our town. Bustling granite sheds, trains, and stonework manufacturing enabled the company to ship Vermont granite all across the United States. Courthouses, city halls and other foundational buildings from Chicago to Washington DC utilized this natural resource.

A vintage postcard of the Woodbury Granite Co. Plant, Hardwick, Vt. Image contains large chunks of granite and cranes lifting them.
A vintage postcard of the Woodbury Granite Co. Plant, Hardwick, Vt.


When the Company closed in 1935, the 15 acre space became an informal town green, where horse pulling contests, beagle trials, and even a winter ice rink were set up for the Town's citizens to enjoy. As the granite company buildings fell into disrepair, Hardwick locals would use the fields, and the leftover stone, for their own purposes. Whether Vt Association of Snow Travelers, Vt All-Terrain Sportsman Association, or birders and dog-walkers, the field and forest have had both formal and informal trails for decades. Hardwick's Kiwanis Club hosted the very first Spring Festival on the field in 1950 - a tradition that's still in full force decades later!


In 2008, the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) purchased the land with an easement by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board including a provision that it will always be open to the public. CAE’s intent was and is to showcase the history and to provide a space for community to grow food and learn together. In addition, trails, a bicycle pump track and the gardens and orchard provide natural recreation resources used by all and well-placed to connect with the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail in the near future.

The Atkins Field Pavilion in the Snow
The Atkins Field Pavilion in the Snow

 
2011: Hardwick Farmers Market moves to Atkins
2013: Hardwick Community Gardens move to Atkins
2015: Community Hoop House is built, and gardens expand
2016: Community orchard and permaculture plantings are completed - by Hazen high school students
2019: Timber frame open-air pavilion built with scissor truss design to mimic the granite shed’s internal structure.
2021: University of Vermont engineering students created a vision and plans for a repurposed granite shed 
2022: Plans are for a schematic design to assess how the 350-foot granite shed can be renovated.


Want to get involved? Have some ideas? Get in touch! 


Visit Atkins Field at 100 Granite Street in Hardwick, VT 05843. 
 

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