The HALE COMMUNITY GARDEN began in 2009. Arlean Hale Lambert provided the land for the gardens to operate at the end of Maywood Street in Blacksburg Virginia. The first step of developing the gardens was with the construction of the Roper Solar Greenhouse. In late 2009 with funding from a USDA Higher Challenge Grant awarded to Virginia Tech (principle investigator Dr. Susan Clark), a part time garden coordinator was hired. Jenny Schwanke has been a part time garden coordinator since the gardens began.
Originally, the HALE COMMUNITY GARDEN was a program of the Y at Virginia Tech. The Y ran gardens in the town beginning in the late 1970’s under the leadership of the then Y director Emily Stuart. During the 1990’s and early 2000’s the gardens moved onto town property adjacent the cemetery on Roanoke Street. When the town needed the Roanoke Street property for other uses, the garden moved to the Maywood Street site.
In 2019, the Hale Community Garden reorganized in an effort to sustain itself long term. In July 2019, Arlean Hale Lambert to donate the 5 acre site for community use to the Town of Blacksburg with easements placed on the property to conserve it as gardens/open space in perpetuity . An endowment fund for the future of the garden is housed at the Community Foundation of the New River Valley. The local non-profit Live, Work, Eat, Gather, Inc. is the managing organization offering community expertise and a vision for the future.
The community has contributed greatly to site improvements. Blue Ridge Timberwrights and the Blacksburg Rotary Club combined efforts to create a timber frame pavilion for classes, meetings, and picnicking. Bowers Barn Builders completed a tool shed for the gardens in 2014. Heritage Stone laid the patio under the timberframe and outside the greenhouse.
In 2020 the seventy plots are tended by gardeners from a dozen countries. The garden is also a site for community volunteer work, well over 1000 of hours each year (less in COVID times). Garden programming includes classes, community garden projects, and school field trips.
The Hale Community Garden is a model of community development engaging Virginia Tech students, community members and local organizations. We are dedicated to a strong community, a healthy ecological environment, educational opportunities, and food sovereignty. Today we are delighted to see that a vibrant community garden flourishes.