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
3000 Bc: small bands of Native Americans harvest game and seasonal forage crops
1500 AD: Larger native settlements thrive as agriculture provides a more reliable food source
1609: Samuel de Champlain documents extensive cornfields 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
1900: Calkins, Arns and LaCasse families operate dairy farms
1927: Intervale experiences epic flooding
1944: Municipal dump opens; operates through the 1970s
1950: 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 Center (then known as Intervale Foundation) is established.