Danielle Calaway is a Staff Assistant in Facilities Management and a member of the University of Vermont Medical Center Green Team.

Danielle Calaway is a Staff Assistant in Facilities Management and a member of the University of Vermont Medical Center Green Team.

Autumn signals the final days of tending my raised square-foot garden bed at the Fanny Allen campus. I’m sad to bid adieu to my last-surviving plants and clear the remains of various growing failures (I’m looking at you, onions), but excited to use my new knowledge for future growing seasons.

In this post I’ll reflect on my experiences in the Teaching Garden at Fanny Allen, a 25-week beginner gardening course offered to UVM Medical Center staff.

Gardening and food saving basics

From May to October, I learned how to grow and cook fresh vegetables under the guidance of gardener Lisa Hoare and registered dietician Maryann Ludlow.

The course included gardening instruction (planting, weeding, deterring pests, and so forth), food preparation and preservation lessons (canning, fermenting, dehydrating, etc.), and a variety of workshops led by local experts—like how to find wild edibles or save seeds.

I learned many practical and cost-effective methods for growing and saving food—and now realize the value of Mason jars beyond empty Pinterest craft ambitions.

IMG_1912Planting the seeds of confidence

Growing and eating your own food is hardly a new concept. But after a lifetime of relying on the grocery store for my produce, I found gardening exciting—and empowering.

I started my gardening class with a plant-growing résumé that included things like “slathering wet chia seeds on a clay creature” and “slowly killing houseplants.” Needless to say, I was thrilled when my store-bought, organic seeds transformed into vegetable-bearing plants.

Of course I lost a few plants along the way—some to natural causes, others to my own mistakes—but I accepted these losses as learning opportunities. Whether I needed help taming my tomato plant or reviving my basil, Lisa and Maryann offered invaluable advice and support throughout the growing season.

IMG_1924Eating healthy, easily

My garden also helped me make better eating choices. With fresh vegetables at my fingertips, I found it easier (and cheaper) to eat healthy.

After work, I’d visit my garden and snip greens to make a salad, or pick a bowl of grape tomatoes for a snack on my commute home (effectively preventing regrettable, hunger-induced purchases at the gas station checkout).

We also learned how to make simple, seasonal recipes (like these braised Brussels sprouts) during our weekly gardening workshops. Armed with homegrown produce and cooking ideas, I tried new dishes and practiced healthy cooking methods.

Planning for the future

I end my journey at the Teaching Garden at Fanny Allen feeling motivated to adopt gardening as a lifelong habit. I look forward to learning from my mistakes, and making new ones, when I plant in the spring.

In the meantime, I’ll snag locally-grown veggies from the farmers’ market, dip into my collection of food preservation experiments, and plot how to keep my onions alive next year.

Braised Brussels Sprouts

  • 4cupsbrussels sprouts, halved
  • 6Tbspbalsamic vinegar
  • 6Tbspolive oil
  • black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. In a bowl, mix olive oil, vinegar, and pepper.
  3. Toss sprouts in mixture until coated.
  4. Lay sprouts on a baking pan in a single layer.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, turning once.
  6. Sprouts are done when lightly browned.
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Danielle Calaway is a Staff Assistant in Facilities Management and a member of the Green Team.

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