Morgan Spring Community Garden vandalized; plants destroyed

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BENNINGTON -- Vandalism at the Morgan Spring Community Garden, which donates some of its produce to the local food shelf, has some gardeners feeling dismayed.

Christina West, a certified master gardener through the UVM extension, said plants from several plots, including the ones for her Learning Garden and the ones for the Kitchen Cupboard, were uprooted sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday. A few plants were left near the garden, by the corner of Bradford Street and Gage Street, but most are simply gone.

"I finally got something that resembles a decent classroom that I can run courses out of, and we got hit hard," she said.

West began volunteering at the Kitchen Cupboard a few years ago and got involved with the community garden. The two are within close proximity to each other. She and one other person went through the UVM Extension's master gardener program, and now she is qualified to teach others through the program. She hopes to soon offer free to low-cost classes in gardening and composting, and has been managing five plots at Bradford Street for that purpose. At some point, she hopes to have the Learning Garden be a full non-profit.

The Kitchen Cupboard has 10 plots growing produce for it. Members of the community can rent a plot of their own, and many choose to donate what they grow to The Kitchen Cupboard. The garden has been going strong for the past six years or so.

West said vandalism of any kind is rare. A stepped on plant here, a missing tool there, but nothing on this level. She estimated a few hundred dollars worth in produce has been lost.

The plants that were pulled up were not the sort that transplant easily, she said. Had it been someone snagging peas or ripe tomatoes, that would not bother her so much, but what has happened appears to be wanton destruction.

West said she has replanted a handful of what was uprooted, but doubts it did much good.

"There's at least three to four private plots that got it, it's inside and outside of the fence," she said.

It's discouraging to have months of work destroyed so quickly, West said, adding that some people garden as a family activity. "There's going to be a child who comes to look at the flowers they planted, and it's going to be gone," she said.

The fence that surrounded the Learning Garden and Kitchen Cupboard plots does not offer much protection against human intruders. West said it's clear an animal is not responsible for the damage.

A report was filed with Bennington Police, who according to West said they would inform their night shift personnel about the damage. People in the neighborhood have also been asked to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

"I just hope that if they took them, they used them for something and didn't just toss them," said Larry Betit, who gardens with Leona Hynick. He said he lost a tomato plant, two pepper plants, two cucumber plants, and four tomato cages.

The Morgan Spring Community Garden posted the following to the Banner's Facebook page under photos taken of the damaged plants.

"Thanks for all the support everyone. The garden is a place for everyone in this town to enjoy. For those of you in town, feel free to stroll around the garden and the Rec center. Garden members grow food to feed their families, but we cultivate beauty for everyone to share. We will not let a bit of vandalism ruin the good thing we have going!"

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.


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