University of Vermont

Kristen Doering: My Internship at the Abenaki Heritage Garden

My internship was as the Abenaki Heritage Garden located at the Intervale Center in Burlington Vermont. The main crops in the garden, squash, beans and corn, are grown as the Abenaki people were assumed to cultivate them. It was established in 2009 as a collaboration with St.Francis/Sokoki band of the Abenaki Nation at Missiqoui, the Intervale Center, Gardener’s Supply Company, the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Program at the University of Vermont. It is managed by a community advisory board composed of volunteers, professors and Intervale Center members. My internship coordinator was Rob Hunt, who is also the volunteer coordinator for the Garden. The garden is part of the Burlington Area Community Gardens and also the Sacred Seeds Network.

I worked on the garden about three hours a week and my tasks varied each visit. On my very first visit I helped construct a fence, which enclosed the garden using sticks and strips of bark. My next few visits were concerned with planting. We constructed mounds where we planted corn in the four cardinal directions and in between we planted squash in a method the Abenaki people used to use. We laid down wood chips for the paths and used straw, newspaper and burlap sacks to mulch and prevent weeds in between the corn hills. Our burlap sacks were recycled coffee sacks from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

We planted more beans next to the corn so that the beans could grow up the stalks. More beans were planted next to the fence posts so they could utilize the posts as supports. We used an area where a bench was located and planted gourds that eventually grew up a trellis. We planted a variety of squash, including yellow crook necks, white scallop squash and pumpkins. Unfortunately, most of our corn was eaten by squirrels so we were only able to harvest about a dozen ears of corn. Our squash harvest was much more plentiful and we donated most of our proceeds to the food shelf.

My experience at the Abenaki Heritage Garden was overall extremely positive and informative. I gained a great deal of experience with gardening, organic farming techniques, traditional agriculture and community outreach. I encourage anyone interested to get involved!