Certified Instructor Taylor Kurtz with Laura Bartholomew at Annabel's SFG.

Produce grown in the garden is taken to the library where the community can pick up free veggies.

Written by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin 

Square Foot Gardening is not only a brilliant solution for backyard gardeners – it’s also the perfect food growing technique for community gardens. A case in point is Annabel’s Victory Garden in Columbia County, NY. 

Keep reading to learn more about this inspiring project! 

Annabel’s Victory Garden is Imagined 


A poster from 1945 encourages people to grow their own food. Public Domain.

As gardeners know, great things start small, with a plant seed (or a seed of an idea) containing a world of potential nourishment. 

This was certainly the case for 14 year old Annabel O’Neill in upstate New York in 2013 – both figuratively and literally! She thought it would be a great idea to teach other kids how to grow and cook healthy food. 

Taking the form of a Girl Scout project, Annabel brought this vision to life by starting a community garden in her small village of Philmont. 

She was inspired by the victory garden, an initiative started during WWI and WWII to ease food pressure at nationwide levels when resources were being diverted to war efforts. 

Annabel started off with her own community food growing initiative with just four raised beds located in the heart of downtown Philmont. 

The Community Garden Expands 

But those four raised beds were just the start of great things to come. 

Promising Annabel they would carry on her project, members of Philmont Beautification Inc. (PBI), led by executive director Sally Baker, took over managing the community garden as part of a multi-pronged effort to revitalize their community. 

It was at the height of the COVID pandemic that PBI decided to expand this community garden, when food resources were sometimes scarce, and mental health needs skyrocketed. 

PBI decided to expand Annabel’s initial project from four beds into 18 beds in an enclosed food growing space of 1600 square feet. 

Intended primarily as a teaching space, the expanded garden was built by SFG Certified Instructor Taylor Kurtz, who remains the lead gardener for the site. 

SFGs Serving a Community 

beans on trellis in square foot garden

SFGs provide healthy food when other options are scarce.

Annabel’s Victory Garden continues to serve as a place where the Square Foot Gardening Method of growing on the grid can be taught to community members. 

Another way this community garden contributes to residents is through the abundant food it produces. 

Two days a week during the growing season, a community cooler at the Philmont Library makes the fresh veggies available for all. Residents can also drop off extra produce from their own beds to share with others. 

Harvests from Annabel’s SFG are also used to provide ingredients for local cooking classes, including canning and salsa making workshops. 

And Girl Scout Troop 1008 transforms flowers and herbs grown in the garden into artisanal herbal teas. 

Finally, at the end of a bountiful growing season, gardeners and other Philmont residents come together for a convivial community harvest dinner. 

Would you like to nourish the seed of this heartwarming and inspiring example in your own community? 

Donate to the Square Foot Gardening Foundation and learn more about how your donations become grants to support community gardens like Annabel’s.