For years, Vienna residents, groups and businesses have suggested the town create a community garden.
But there had never been a good place or adequate plan — until now.
Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Salgado and Vienna Elementary School parent Laura Goyer presented a plan to Town Council this week that would bring a garden to town-owned land along the W&OD trail between the Community Center and the school.
The garden would be an educational tool for both the school and the community at-large, Goyer said. In the future, with more space, the town could also consider renting plots of the garden to residents.
In previous proposal reviews — which put gardens at park sites, regional park sites and private property — town staff said any garden would have to be designed and managed by volunteers and funded largely by donations or sponsorship. This proposal meets all of those requirements, Salgado said at Monday's meeting.
Goyer first thought about the land's possibility as a space for students and residents last year after the town purchased the 9,322 square-foot-plot of land for $33,000.
"There has been a lot of talk over the years for Vienna Elementary to partner [with the Community Center] for something," Goyer said. "It seemed like a logical next step for a lot of wellness things we've done at Vienna Elementary. I just think we could really raise awareness. The educational possibilities are just enormous."
The two-part plan she and Salgado have developed divides the land into two 35 by 75 foot plots: the first cared for by the Vienna Elementary School PTA and the second by the town. Goyer recruited Maple Ave Market owner and farmer Chris Guerre and Whole Foods Market, both of which are located just down the trail from the garden, for guidance and resources.
The plan calls for the removal of five trees that would interfere with plant growth, Goyer said, after which Guerre will help create and plow a single-flatbed garden for the school in time for spring planting. A kick-off day for the town's section of the garden would follow, during which Whole Foods employees, along with interested residents, would install 12 to 16 raised beds with soil donated by Guerre.
This spring, Goyer will coordinate students and classes to help Guerre plant spring crops. By the next school year, she said, the school would have a structured program tying the garden into the curriculum. Eventually, it could do things like create a fourth grade project that ties into study of what was planted in Colonial Williamsburg, or a "salsa garden" that would not only teach students about what goes into salsa but also the measurements needed to make it, Goyer said.
Goyer has talked with local groups, parents and businesses about volunteering to care for the garden a week at a time over the summer, she said.
The town community garden, supported by its horticulture staff, would tie into the town's greenhouse program. It would also be used to teach gardening classes or offer residents, under the town's direction, a chance to plant and maintain flowers or native species, Salgado said.
Whole Foods officials plan to run a "5%" campaign — which designates 5 percent of one day's sale to a group, project, or cause — to fund a water line and pump for the garden. Goyer also applied for a $2,000 grant from the Whole Foods WholeKids Foundation, which could be used to start the school garden; winners will be announced by the end of this month, she said.
Council members offered early support for the proposal.
"This is very well-laid out and organized and it seems the school is very much behind it," Councilwoman Laurie DiRocco said.
Salgado said she would work with town and school officials in the coming weeks to draft agreements and finalize plans.
"We have an extremely strong plan how to deal with issues, the school has an extraordinary amount of research," Salgado said. "I feel quite confident."