Gardening friendship blossoms into partnership

The Vegetable Project has been digging in the dirt with Albany kids since September 2009, though we did not adopt the name until a bit later. We formalized things some in the fall of 2015, creating a nonprofit corporation under provisions of New York state law and then seeking and receiving determination by the Internal Revenue Service that we are eligible for tax-exempt status. The hope was that these steps would bolster our ability to raise resources and thus improve our prospects for sticking around. Maybe now we have lasted longer than some school gardening initiatives do.

Maybe we have made a difference to some kids along the way. And maybe we helped ourselves with productive choices here and there. One of the best was less than a year in when a friend encouraged looking up Susan Fowler, who had been leading the Friendship Garden at the Delaware Community School for 10 years when we got started. We heeded the suggestion, visited the Friendship Garden and found inspiration that has guided us ever since. The cozy garden on Hurlbut Street and the love that Susan, then a teacher at the school across the street and now retired, exudes for her kids, helps sustain a sense of purpose when doubts creep in.

So, it is with great pleasure that we note, all these year later, that the Vegetable Project and the Friendship Garden established a partnership last year, aimed at sharing ideas, knowledge, occasionally resources and most of all thinking together about how to ensure that both programs outlast their founders, who fail to get any younger. The idea of working together grew out of a visit to the Friendship Garden about a year ago to inspect damage that heavy snow inflicted on an old pergola there.

The structure was beyond repair. Building anew required quick fundraising and gathering volunteers, both of which could be done more easily by working together than would have been likely for one of us alone. The Vegetable Project, with its incorporation and tax-exempt status, can help the Friendship Garden with some business services. Beyond that, we will swap ideas about everything from coaxing plants to grow to navigating school organizations that do not always see the point of us. We’ll learn from each other’s experiences. And we’ll celebrate together the good that comes from getting kids outside and getting their hands dirty.

–Bill Stoneman

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