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After Irene

Gardeners reach out to help farmers and neighbors

Team from Gardener's Supply

The team from Gardener's Supply arrives in Waterbury.

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, the first reaction — for many people — was stunned silence. It's hard to take in the fearsome power of nature and the shocking devastation. It's easy to feel helpless and small. But eventually, you snap out of it and ask: "How can I help?"

Like Vermonters all across the state, we know it's time to put on gloves and get to work, helping neighbors who weren't so fortunate. Many of us have helped in our own communities, but here's what we're doing as a company:

In Our Neighboring Communities

On the Friday after the storm, a group of employees traveled to Waterbury, VT, a town of about 5,000 that was innundated when the Winooski River overflowed its banks, filling homes and businesses with water and mud.

Wellies

The Gardener's Supply team brought dozens of pairs of Wellies to give away.

Mary-Nell Bockman, our production manager, led the team of 36 volunteers.

"It would be easy to feel overwhelmed by the extent of the flood damage to the town and people in Waterbury," she said. "There are some 200 homes in this village that had water 4 feet high on the first floor. The amount of recovery work that needs to be done is staggering. But when our group of 36 volunteers arrived, armed with shovels, buckets and 125 pairs of Wellies, we joined nearly 200 others that morning, all there to dig in and clean up, house by house and block by block. I left at the end of the day, tired for sure, but lifted up by the experience and feeling proud and inspired. Together, we are a force of nature, too."

In Our Backyard

Gardener's Supply is headquartered in Burlington, VT, in an area called the Intervale, a 700-acre stretch of land beside the Winooski River. Our building remained high and dry during the storm and its floods, but the farmers in our "backyard" were hit hard. By noon on Monday, most of the Intervale farms had been flooded. The only way to traverse Intervale Road was in a canoe.

To help our neighboring farmers, Gardener's Supply will send teams of employee-volunteers out on Sept. 14 to put things back in order.

Though the Intervale has a rich agricultural history, during the mid-1900s it became a dumping ground for tires, old cars and trash. In 1986, Gardener's Supply began a community-wide effort to revitalize this unique natural resource and reinvigorate local, sustainable agriculture. Today, the Intervale is an integral part of our community. Visitors can see more than a dozen organic, market gardens, producing everything from tomatoes to zinnias to pasture-raised chicken—more than 500,000 pounds of food each year.

In Our Stores

In addition to putting our own shovels in the ground, Gardener's Supply will match up to $5,000 at our Burlington and Williston stores. Our goal is to raise $10,000. The funds will be split between the Intervale Center's Farmer Relief Fund and the Vermont Food Bank. The Intervale Center is also taking donations online for the Farmer Relief Fund.

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