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History

In 1986, Will Raap, founder of Gardener’s Supply Company, spearheaded an Intervale clean-up effort to restore the Intervale – 700 acres of bottomland within the city limits of Burlington, Vermont – to its agricultural roots and feed Burlington. Thanks to more than 20 years of extraordinary work by the Intervale Center (initially named the Intervale Foundation) and those who farm here, the Intervale has been transformed into a nationally recognized center for sustainable agriculture.

In the 1980s, the Intervale was a dangerous and unwelcoming place for visitors. Agricultural fields had been abandoned, and people were using the Intervale as an informal dumping ground for tires, furniture and other garbage. Will Raap and many other dedicated community members removed garbage and debris, rebuilt depleted soils through composting and started gardening and farming, and through their actions, began to transform the Intervale from an informal dump to a beautiful agricultural and recreational resource for Burlington.

Today, visitors find in the Intervale a unique and innovative community built around growing, eating and celebrating locally grown food. At the Intervale Center, they find a mature nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening community food systems by enhancing farm viability, promoting the sustainable use of agricultural lands and engaging people in the food system.

The Intervale itself has a long history of agricultural productivity. Native Americans farmed here a millennium ago. Since the 1700s, Vermonters have operated dairies and grown flowers and food here. The Intervale Center and the farmers who steward the Intervale today recognize that we are a part of this rich and diverse history of Intervale stewards, and we work to sustainably care for this place with this history – and these people – in our hearts.

A Timeline History of the Intervale* and Intervale Center

3000 BC: Small bands of Native Americans harvest game and seasonal forage crops.

1000-1500 AD: Larger native settlements thrive as agriculture provides a more reliable food source.

1450: A charred corncob is the earliest evidence of Abenaki farming.

1609: Samuel de Champlain documents extensive corn fields at the mouths of the major rivers on the lake’s east side – almost certainly including the Winooski.

1772: Ethan, Ira, Herman and Zimri Allen form the Onion River Land Company to sell Intervale land.

1787: Ethan Allen builds a homestead.

1861: Central Vermont Railroad lays track in the Intervale.

1900s: Calkins, Arns and LaCasse families operate dairy farms.

1927: Intervale experiences epic flooding

1944: A municipal dump opens; operates through the 1970s.

1950s: McKenzie family operates a pig farm.

1977: First segment of Vermont 127 is built through the Intervale.

1983: Will Raap founds Gardener’s Supply Company.

1987: Burlington rezones the Intervale to exclude industrial and residential growth.

1988: Intervale Compost Products starts as a community leaf and yard waste recycling project. Intervale Center (then known as Intervale Foundation) is established.
1989: Intervale Community Farm is the first community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Vermont.

1990: Intervale Center launches the Farms Program, a farm business incubator program.

2001: The Intervale Conservation Nursery is established.

2002: Healthy City youth farm is established.

2005: Paul and Rita Calkins donate 53 acres to the Intervale Center; historic restoration of Calkins Farmstead corncrib (for storing corn) and farmhouse are completed; and full-site restoration at Intervale Compost Products is undertaken.

2008: Intervale Compost is sold to Chittenden Solid Waste District.

2008: Intervale Food Hub is launched.

2009: Community raises English Hay Barn; Abenaki Heritage Garden is established; and Healthy City program merges with Friends of Burlington Gardens.

2011: Composting ends in the Intervale, as the Solid Waste District moves operations to Williston. Summervale, the Intervale Center’s summer community celebration, achieves record-breaking attendance.