Fairfield Community Center Association: Fairfield Community Center Grows Local Connections Through Gardens and Pizza

2023 Update:

What were some of the challenges you faced in implementing your project?


True to the Seedling name, the project grew to include a landscape plan that encompassed the new pavilion and the whole area south west of the Fairfield Community Center. Challenges included the collaboration and scheduling of multiple partners from a volunteer landscape designer, to a hired landscape professional, to a senior high school student doing community service, to a local cedar mill for raised bed lumber, to a lumber yard in Irasburg for cedar fence posts, to the Northwest Technical Center Building Trades program….and the weather. It has been a year of excess moisture slowing the progress.


Did you need to make any adjustments as you proceeded?


We decided to purchase a commercial “portable” (it only weighs 400 pounds!) pizza oven. We felt the convenience of having an oven that heats up in 30 minutes, that could be moved for fundraisers to different sites and that would require little maintenance was a better option than a hand-built oven.

Two of the raised beds were built tall to eliminate bending to weed for our guests that cannot   kneel or squat.

We installed a post and rail fence to define the garden, pizza and pavilion area.

The project should be completed by May of 2024. A year late!


What was the most surprising or unexpected outcome of your work? The most satisfying?


       Exemplary outcomes require consultation and communication with folks who are experienced in their fields. Working with a landscape designer and a landscape professional ensures that the end result will be functional and beautiful, accommodating traffic flow and accessibility.


How will the work enabled by this Seedling Grant continue over the next few years? How will it grow? What are your next steps?


       We have a vision for a garden terrace and stone steps on the west side of the pavilion and garden benches for the community to enjoy the space.


What new connections between people or organizations were fostered by this work?


       As mentioned above: a local landscape planner and professional, NWTC Building Trades, BFA Community Service, local cedar mill, regional lumber yard, many community volunteers. We are eager to engage more deeply with the farming community once the grass grows and the sun shines.


What were the biggest milestones or accomplishments of this project?


       Building the fence, moving the pizza structure and the garden shed, placing the raised beds…all visually showed the vision becoming the reality.



Do you have an interesting story about working on this project or seeing some of its specific impacts?


So, we had to move the timber frame pizza structure to higher ground onto a slab that was poured for the pizza oven. Our fearless leader had the belief that with enough people and good direction that we could move it without equipment. She was right! We made a call out for volunteers; we spanned the posts with 2X6s and with 4 people on a side, we lifted the roofed post and beam framed onto the slab and then placed the oven under it.

We will need another year to report on the impacts.

2022 Grant Amount: $3,950

The Fairfield Community Center (FCCA), partnering with the Towns of Fairfield and Bakersfield, are growing their ability to create community through education, access, gardening, cooking, and celebration. For over 10 years FCCA has maintained raised garden beds and an outdoor brick oven to bring our communities together around growing, serving and eating local food. The gardens and the oven are on a 5 acre “campus” in East Fairfield adjacent to the Community Center building, 2 playgrounds (preK-5 and 5-12 year old) and basketball court, the little league field, The Meeting House on the Green ( https://www.meetinghouseonthegreen.org/ ), the newly redone Rail Trail and the, to be built this year, a 22’ X 40’ foot, pavilion. This project includes rebuilding FCCA's pizza oven and the raised bed gardens.

FCCA is a community service organization that hosts weekly Community Meals and weekly food shelf plus vacation camps for youth. This project will build on FCCA’s historical commitment to food access and food sovereignty.

FCCA takes pride in our ability to create an environment where a client can come to the food shelf and experience a full "shopping" free of charge that includes local produce from Healthy Roots gleaning, local product purchases thanks to a grant from Vermonters Feeding Vermonters and donations, local whole milk from Monument Farms, local eggs and bread, deli items and sweets from Hannaford's and a locally cooked meal.

All products that are local are labeled with the farm of origin. We frequently have products from River Berry, Sandy Bottom, Cat’s Meow, Stone Hollow, Green Wind Farm, Blue Heron, West Farm, Finn and Roots, plus harvests from our garden on site. By introducing our guests to these farms and the products that they grow we are making a connection between them plus we are introducing our guests to new tastes and sometimes rekindling their memories of foods that they grew up eating (for instance: shell beans!)

The newly framed raised bed gardens will serve as a demonstration garden: with over 25 varieties of vegetables, 10 or more varieties of culinary herbs, and interspersed with annual flowers. One bed will be built to be wheelchair accessible, for individuals who are so disabled. The gardens also give the youth in our programs an opportunity to monitor, care for, and plan garden plantings. This year they decided to dedicate one bed to the Ukrainian people and planted sunflowers and grains (sorghum, wheat, and millet). The gardens are planted with specific community members and clientele in mind. One household, who struggles with lack of sun and too much fresh horse manure, asked if we could plant her favorite vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers) so that she could have them fresh this summer so we did!  And as mentioned, the area dairy farms employ up to 40 Latino migrant workers. FCCA grows and presently delivers to 5 households.

The new pizza oven, with greater capacity and ease of use, will help introduce area folks to products from area farms while celebrating community and raising funds ($300-$400 per night) for FCCA to be able to continue offering the well-received services. A cyclical affair.

The oven is available for use by community members who rent out the center to host events. It acts as a draw for people in the community who don't come to the center otherwise, allowing us to make connections and get to know our neighbors.