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May Community Member Spotlight: Emma McHone

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

As spring emerges in the Monadnock Region, it is time to sow the seeds of another season at the Community Garden Connections (CGC) Westmoreland Garden Project.

Community Garden Connections (CGC) is a program led by Antioch University New England (AUNE) students and faculty. CGC’s education and outreach work builds community resilience through their 12 garden sites throughout the Monadnock Region. The majority of sites are situated alongside local nonprofits and social service agencies, while the Westmoreland Garden Project is a 1-acre site dedicated to growing food for the Keene Community Kitchen and supporting community education.

The Westmoreland Garden Project Sign, Image Credit: Emma McHone

CGC is successfully led by a team of student garden site coordinators as well as AUNE faculty advisors Dr. Jean Kayira and Dr. Libby McCann. In addition to student and faculty involvement, the program is strengthened and made possible by community volunteers and partners. CGC is steered by an advisory board of local conservation, agricultural, and food systems organizations, including the Cheshire County Conservation District (CCCD). CCCD also serves as a liaison between CGC's resources and programs and the Cheshire County Community.

Since 2011, CGC has grown community throughout the Monadnock Region, in addition to nutritious and accessible produce! Now in its 11th season of growing food for the Keene Community Kitchen, the Westmoreland Garden Project will be stewarded by Emma McHone.

Emma has always had a strong connection to the land. Growing up in North Carolina and Texas, they would frequently join their Grandfather on walks and adventures in the woods. Their undergraduate experience at Colby College affirmed their passion for Environmental Studies, as well as their interest in exploring broader connections between people and the environment.

This passion and love of learning, as well as connecting youth to nature, lead Emma to a job opportunity in environmental and farm education in the Monadnock Region, and then to pursue a masters degree in Environmental Education at Antioch University New England (AUNE).

When reflecting on their choice to move to the Monadnock Region to attend AUNE, Emma cited the CGC program as a huge draw. As soon as they arrived to AUNE for their masters studies, Emma became involved with CGC.

In addition to working as a co-coordinator with CGC, Emma worked with other community organizations in the region, including CCCD. In the fall of 2021, McHone and an AUNE classmate created an evaluation plan for CCCD to utilize in their programmatic and community outreach goals.

As this season’s Farm Steward, Emma is excited to connect with the land and community. Bringing enthusiasm and new energy into this season’s programs, Emma also honors the legacy of those who came before, by contacting past garden site coordinators to hear their stories and experiences in managing the garden.

Volunteers pose with Emma (in plaid) for a photo at the Westmoreland Garden Project. Image Credit: Emma McHone

Emma’s interest in learning that legacy stems from a commitment to best supporting the land, they note,

“I have learned about all of these amazing people that came before me, who have made such big strides in trying to connect people to food and creating food access and security in the Monadnock Region. I’m really grateful to be a part of that”.

Considering the longer legacy of growing food on this land, Emma is also in the process of connecting with the Kearsarge Food Hub and the Abenaki Trails Project in hopes to support the Abenaki Seeds Project. This collaboration is in the first few years of supporting access to culturally relevant seeds and foods for Abenaki communities in the region.

This season, Emma plans to utilize lessons learned from the past, to create a meaningful and inclusive season in Westmoreland.

Emma cites that the goal of CGC is to build local capacity to support food access among those most impacted by inequality in our food system. Emma explains further, “The program makes sure that people have access to food, and that it's healthy food, and that they can have resources to learn about growing that food for themselves, while being able to do that in community”.

In addition to this goal, CGC aims to create a fun and educational atmosphere that prioritizes access to fresh produce, to benefit the long-term health and well-being of the community.

Emma notes that CGC also aims to support the community in a sustainable manner,

“We consider how we are going to meet the shifts and changes in our communities based on the climate, but also all in terms of other types of resilience that community members need to have in food systems, like food prices being high, or not having access to close by healthy foods. Making sure that we are considering how community gardens fit in all of these bits and pieces that go into making resilient communities.”

The Westmoreland Garden Project is a site that aims to foster further community resilience, while providing a space for land, food, and community.

Westmoreland High School senior, Paige Cote, is a volunteer at the Westmoreland Garden Project. On her experience volunteering she shared,

"I love volunteering at the Westmoreland Garden Project because it gives me the opportunity to learn from and connect with other gardeners! It’s been a really relaxing and lovely experience for me."

One of Emma’s goals for this season is to bring more community members to the site. They note that volunteer workdays are Tuesday’s from 4:00-6:00PM at 193 River Rd, Westmoreland, NH 03467, and that no prior experience in gardening is required. All necessary tools and information are provided to volunteers, with opportunities being open to community members of all ability types.

Sign at the Westmoreland Garden Project reads, "Garden with Us! All are Welcome. Tuesdays 4-6PM. All Veggies to a good cause!". Image Credit: Emma McHone

In addition to volunteer opportunities, CGC leads free community workshops and events. Emma notes an apple cider pressing event last fall, which brought together AUNE students, volunteers, and community members. On the event, Emma shares,

“It speaks to how community gardening can encourage people from all different walks of life and all different experiences, to come together around things related to food”.

Emma (center) and volunteers pose for a fun photo at the apple cider pressing event! Image Credit: Emma McHone

Whether attending a workshop, event, or volunteering is your interest, there is something for everyone to gain from CGC, in addition to community grown produce. Emma notes, “I think food is something that binds us, it’s something that we can all rally around as something to build resilience into our communities. This work binds CGC staff, partner organizations and community members together in the belief that always as we move forward, is the importance of food”.



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