Burlington, Vt.: Green Is Just How It's Done

Organic gardening and self-sufficiency are part of the culture in Burlington, Vt., where the Intervale Center forms an agricultural oasis within the city limits and the University of Vermont provides college-town cultural advantages.

  • Burlington, Vt., is located on the shores of Lake Champlain.
    Photo by iStock/Erika Mitchell
  • The Intervale Center helps set a national standard for local food systems.
    Photo by City Market/Onion River Co-op

Each year, MOTHER EARTH NEWS selects a handful of sustainable communities to highlight in our annual Great Places feature. Check out the other towns featured in our 2014 installment: 8 Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of.

Burlington, Vermont. If one community could serve as poster child for the core values we write about in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Burlington would be it. Organic gardening, self-sufficiency, an involved community, renewable energy and a commitment to health are how Burlington rolls. Its vibrant local food system is central to the city, and at the heart of that food system is the Intervale Center.

“Intervale” is a term for the low ground between hills, often bottomland enriched by overflow from creeks and rivers. In the 1980s, an intervale tract of more than 700 acres within the city limits had become a dangerous, inhospitable place. Historically productive fields sat abandoned and people were using the land primarily as a dumping ground.

Will Raap, founder of Gardener’s Supply Company, led an effort to restore the area and return it to its agricultural roots. Community members hauled off garbage, rebuilt depleted soils and gradually transformed the land to its present condition as a healthy agricultural and recreational resource for Burlington. The Intervale Center now stewards 350 acres of this land, and Raap’s vision of an agricultural oasis that could feed Burlington’s citizens has become a reality.

“Burlington is uniquely lucky to have the vast green expanse of farmland within the city limits,” says Travis Marcotte, executive director of the Intervale Center. “For 25 years, we’ve been building a community food system, modeling how to incubate new farms and develop farm-related businesses, how to market agricultural products and care for the land, how to develop farm-to-school and farm-to-table programs.”

9/22/2014 7:23:01 AM

Burlington Vt is an ok place if you like traffic, a polluted lake and crime. I am a Vermonter and do not like what is happening there. I live 30 miles from that place and never go there.To me its not what Vermont is. to many people,to much sprawl into our beautiful farm land.

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