No harvest for Burlington community gardeners refusing diversity/inclusion/equity pledge

Burlington Area Community Gardens photo – Burlington Parks & Recreation Dept. Facebook page.

By Guy Page

As part of its ‘deep organizational work to address racism as a public health crisis,’ the City of Burlington won’t allow people who refuse to sign a diversity pledge to grow food in a taxpayer-funded community garden.

Of the 83 Vermont municipal signatories to the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion, few have done more than merely sign the declaration. Vermont Executive Director of Racial Equity Xusana Davis said yesterday she hopes more towns will walk the talk by increasing diversity among staff and board members, examining policing policies, and working for diversity/equity/inclusion in schools.  

However, the City of Burlington, which has well-developed Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging staffing and policies, denies access to community gardening for people who won’t sign a document declaring support for diversity, equity and inclusion.

In an email titled “Gardener Re-education,” a Burlington resident informed VDC of a joint effort by the Burlington Area Community Gardens (BACG) to require city residents and non-residents alike to sign a diversity/inclusion/equity statement of agreement as a condition of gardening a city-owned, operated, and funded community garden plot.

“By signing this, you agree to abide by the following requirements and understand that if you fail to do so, your plot privileges may be forfeited,” the statement says, as published on the BACG website

The statement must be signed before BACG will take your credit card payment for lots, ranging from $40-$110 annually. There are no listed exemptions or opt-outs. Sign the agreement. Pay the fee. Then and only then may you raise fruit and vegetables on city-owned property set aside for that purpose. 

BACG is a program of the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department. Its 14 sites are enjoyed by 1400 people. BACG states on its website:

“The City of Burlington has made a commitment to do deep organizational work to address racism as a public health crisis. This started with the creation of the Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging office and has grown into specific community events and trainings for its employees. 

“Through this journey of learning and in a process of reflection, with the support of community members and colleagues, we have identified ways that we can begin to adapt our Gardener Agreement, policies and practices to better cultivate a community garden program that is inclusive and belonging for all of its participants.”

However, people who won’t sign – for whatever reason – are specifically excluded from raising food due to a policy meant to be more ‘inclusive.’ 

The BACG agreement doesn’t specifically list the marginalized groups it hopes to support with more Diversity/Inclusion/Equity. However, the City of Burlington is a signatory to the Declaration of Inclusion, which condemns racism and “welcomes” these specific groups: “all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, age, disability, or socioeconomic status.”

We believe that the revised Gardener Agreement (below) begins to move us closer to the standards and accountability that are the necessary frame to dive deeper into this work. 

 The agreement reads:

Revised Gardener Agreement

We ask that all community gardeners abide by the Gardener Agreement in order to allow our gardens and fellow community members to flourish throughout the growing season.

By signing this, you agree to abide by the following requirements and understand that if you fail to do so, your plot privileges may be forfeited.

I agree to be a responsible BACG community member by prioritizing inclusivity and demonstrating value for our shared humanity. This means:

  • Being open, accepting, respectful and inclusive of everyone
  • Exercising patience, mindfulness and understanding towards others
  • Working to establish meaningful connections with all fellow community gardeners, including those with varied backgrounds and experiences
  • Participating in productive communication and maintaining a spirit of cooperation with fellow gardeners
  • Being proactive about educating myself on matters of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging
  • Being aware of my own privileged identities and how these affect others and understanding, acknowledging, exploring and challenging my conscious and unconscious biases
  • Remaining open to and engaged with efforts of inclusion when I make a mistake, am uncomfortable or held accountable

Communities signing the municipal Declaration of Inclusion also promise their community “has and will continue to be a place where individuals can live freely and express their opinions.” It remains unclear how or whether Burlington community gardeners may “freely” express disagreement with the premise of equity – equality of outcome as opposed to equality of opportunity under the law – and “freely” confess their Judeo-Christian beliefs about human life and sexuality. 

Earlier this week, Vermont Daily Chronicle asked Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger to comment on the ethics and legality of the required agreement. It is a generally-held legal principle that as a taxpayer-funded public good, government services may not be denied on the basis of individual belief. The mayor’s office has not responded. 

At a press conference yesterday, Both Gov. Phil Scott and Davis professed unawareness of the BACG required statement.

Governor Scott was asked by Vermont Daily Chronicle: “Burlington’s Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging office has developed an official policy of limiting access to the city-owned Burlington Area Community Gardens to people who will sign a document declaring personal support for diversity, equity and inclusion. What do you think of diversity programs and policies that deny access to public services for people who won’t sign statements of agreement?”

Gov. Scott responded: “We need inclusion on all levels. I don’t know about the policies you are speaking of.”

“I would want to know more about the policy before I comment on it,” state diversity official Xusanna Davis said.

After the press conference, Scott told VDC he doesn’t support compelling people to become more inclusive, and said he may ask Davis to look into the Burlington policy. 

Categories: Burlington

58 replies »

    • I totally with 99% of these comments, watching from Ohio and wondering why Vermont has turned into an uber liberal State? The people get what they voted for, Burlington is a crime ridden city, Vermont is home to mega druggies and yet all the Vermont folks keep voting them into office? Why?

      • Liberalism/progressivism/socialism is called “collectivist” for a reason. Everyone must be on board with the same ideology and there must be no dissent. Everyone must view the naked emperor and marvel at how stylish is their clothing. When we have a leader of our nation who suffers from a debilitating cognitive dementia, we watch dutifully as our major media outlets and late-night entertainers marvel at his competence. When a new concept comes along to challenge a long-established concept like the biological gender binary, we must put our faith in the experts in social “science” to instruct us in how to accept and celebrate that there are now 70+ genders to CHOOSE from, and we must instill that concept in our children from an early age. Anyone who does not toe the line must be cast as an intolerant bigot, shunned and punished through the denial of social services. If a flu-like illness is deemed a public health emergency and an experimental and possibly dangerous vaccine becomes available to supposedly deter it from spreading, it must be acceptable to threaten the jobs and access to businesses and government services of those who will not submit to having it injected into their muscle. We vote for this in Vermont. We let this ideology grow here like a cancer through blind apathy and affirmation and will not admit that it is a disease, but instead celebrate it and allow it to proliferate. Does that help to answer your question?

      • Oh that is simple. Because the progs came here in droves starting in the 70s, overwhelmed the school systems with propaganda and successfully dumbed down the schools for decades to the point where most graduates can’t think, speak clearly, divide, or recognize the truth when they see it.

        And their votes can be purchased in this state. Mx. Balint knew that, and the Progs knew it too. They love to garner support from out of state to attack their fellow citizens in this state. They have made an art of it.

        Now they have the power in this state to continue to demonize folks like us. They want to hurt us. In fact, they have already with the last 25 years of tax law changes. Well, I can tell you that personally, I am tired of the God Legislature telling me what I can and cannot do. They always think they know better, but they continue to waste taxpayer’s money on problems that are minor.

        These closet napoleons in Burlington need to be sued. Their juvenile dictates only serve to expose them for what they are. Little toddlers stomping their feet and screaming in the grocery aisle because mommy won’t buy them cookies. Every time I see AOC speak her venom, this is all I can think of.

  1. Read the lines of hypocrisy, they won’t “include” those who refuse to sign, or rather to chose freedom and independence.
    Wacko town and spreading fast.
    The woke vs the awake…
    Resist !

    • Rich:
      My question regarding the downward spiral of Burlington was rhetorical in nature, your response was that of a gifted wordsmith.

  2. LOL, taken out of Catch-22 when the loyalty officer made everyone sign a loyalty oath ever time they turned around. This is just as ludicrous……………..

  3. LOL, taken directly out of Catch-22 where the loyalty officer had everyone sign a loyalty oath every time they turned around, stupid is as stupid does…………

  4. Totalitarian or Authoritarian, take your pick- it seems a whole lot of both, with facist
    ideals added in.
    I see the irony, but will the Vermont Judiciary?
    “Gardener Re-Education” as stated above, certainly has a communist tone to it.

  5. This is, once yet again: ILLEGAL & ANTICONSTITUTIONAL? Where is the outrage from the ACLU, I wonder? The VT GOP? The Civil Rights attorneys in VT? The “mainstream” media?

    These MARXISTS well know that the majority of citizens don’t either have the means or the inclination & time to sue them, so they continue on with their cycle of discrimination and bias – the very things they purport to loathe so very much.

    And the Constitution continues to be undermined. And on we go……..to what part of Hell, nobody knows.

    • Kathleen J Gaffney, even the Anti Defamation League has gone Woke.
      The ACLU has never been as effective a their publicity might indicate.

    • The Marxist maneuver is to force us to sue to regain the rights we already had. As you said, it’s time-consuming, costly, and a crap shoot given our ideological and corrupted judiciary. So what do we do? Dig a garden plot and dare them to arrest us. Better yet, 5 people dig plots and force them to arrest. Always resist with at least 2 other people, never alone.

  6. This is Communism. Welcome to Vermont’s Cultural Revolution aka the Communist Chinese Cultural Revolution a la Mao.

  7. Oh, look, it’s race-communist struggle sessions targeting food production and self-sufficiency. Commies just LOVE this kind of thing. Find me a communist country and I’ll find you a famine, every single time. Amazing display, Burlington. One more reason to just stay away, and spend my dining out money elsewhere.

  8. It seems to me a violation of the free speech clause of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Is there a Burlingtonian willing step up to pursue this by contacting the Alliance Defending Freedom?

    • Indeed. Wesley Mouch and the ‘Office of Economic Planning and Natural Resources’ redux. If anyone would read Atlas Shrugged, instead of vilifying it, they’d be amazed how reality is mimicking fiction and why Atlas Shrugged isn’t on the Vermont Teacher’s Union recommended reading list.

  9. “Gardener Re-Education”? Gunslingeress is right! THIS is TRULY a communist tactic, but what else would one expect from the Peoples Republic of Bumington? My mom grew up in Stalin’s USSR & she NEVER let us forget it! Where’s the ADF for THIS one? I SMELL a lawsuit! And just how much DOES “XsusanaX” MAKE annually off OUR tax dollars? Thanks Gov Scott! You HAVE created a monster, and remember her EDICTS are NOT “laws” to be obeyed, but directives to laugh at.

    • To clarify: “Gardener Re-education” was the title of the email from the reader (me), not the BACG document. I wrote the email and borrowed the “re-education”‘ part from a fellow gardener who had written to elected city officials and BACG hoping to help them understand that they can’t make public services contingent on such things as “examining conscious and unconscious biases”! I believe he used the phrase re-education gardens and I thought it was clever.

  10. Hmmm …this “agreement” seems like a religious document kind of like the Ten Commandments or in this case the seven dictates. I thought government institutions weren’t supposed to impose religious dogma on the populace. Where’s the ACLU when you need them?

  11. The first bullet point negates the whole policy and gives everyone a right NOT to sign.

    • Being open, accepting, respectful and inclusive of everyone

    If a person chooses not to sign and is then not given the right to have a plot, isn’t it the city who is not being “open, accepting, respectful and inclusive of everyone” ?

  12. Prophecy has it that the whole of Burlington will soon slide off into Lake Champlain, inclusively.
    Vermont will turn red in celebration.

  13. You have to really get inside the mind of a moonbat marxist to understand the concept of holding a taxpayer-funded city service hostage, only to be provided to those citizens who tow the ideological line in the form of an oath. A civic minded attorney or private group would normally get involved in halting this blatant ideological discrimination policy if they didn’t consider Burlington to already be a lost cause and not worth their time. I guess a reasonable person figures that anyone who lives in the People’s Republic of Burlington must be crazy and they voted for this kind of nonsense anyhow. It is a city where the current majority are either renters, deadbeats or batbleep crazy liberals and they are perfectly ok with this. Decent people should avoid patronizing the City of Burlington. Makes you wonder what’s next down the road? Will the fire dept or rescue squad no longer respond to households that have not taken “the pledge”? Will they cut off your internet and electricity?

    • Anything the ruling marxists are uncomfortable with is “a public health crisis”. Gun ownership by responsible, law-abiding people is also considered by them to be a public health crisis.

  14. I always very much appreciate your journalism and since this issue affects me directly, I want to thank you for investigating and bringing this to the attention of Miro Weinberger, Phil Scott, and Xusana Davis. I have been hesitating to call Meghan O’Daniel at BACG to address this, but I guess I must contact her. After reading your article and the comments I feel it’s important to not just sign such an agreement. I love my garden plot very much and this has presented me with a terrible dilemma. At least several other gardeners (probably a lot more than that) are not ok with this agreement. The one I know of who has reached out to Meghan O’Daniel has not gotten any helpful response. I agree with Richard Jesse that if we can’t make progress with the city, contacting ADF would make sense.

    Here’s the rest of the email from Meghan O’Daniel, which followed the “revised Gardener agreement” It was so creepy and gross I almost couldn’t read it aloud to my kid (who just laughed a lot):

    ””Definitions and Resources”
    We recognize that some of the language used in the revised gardener agreement may not be familiar to all, so below are definitions that we hope will be helpful tools.

    Inclusion & Belonging: Inclusion means to have a seat at the table. Belonging is having your voice elevated at that table you were once denied. Belonging also means feeling comfortable in your own skin and being able to bring your full self into the discussion.
    Privileged Identities: Socially constructed identities linked to aspects of social or political advantage in a society.
    Implicit Biases: Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. This can occur with regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and other topics.
    Oppression: The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic and political benefit of the more powerful social group.
    We understand that these changes may bring up questions for you. It is okay to have questions! The most important part of this process is to meet everything with positive curiosity and openness. We plan to have resources available to everyone starting in January. Any questions or thoughts you have will help guide us in aligning these resources.
    We are available to discuss and reflect with you,
    so please reach out with any and all questions!”

    • Of course, it implies that people were denied “…a place at the table…” to begin with. They were not. No one was. Vermont has n systemic racism, despite specious arguments to the contrary.

  15. Someone needs to start their own community garden and give these people the message that coerced “reeducation” doesn’t belong in a Constitutional Republic.

    • Laurie, no. The garden already in existence needs to be integrated. Right now, they have segregated it.

  16. If these silly fools get away with this, does it mean that libraries, city parks, water front beaches and other public areas are in jeopardy of being closed to those taxpayers who don’t want to sign their ridiculous pledges or drink their poisonous cool aid? I hope that those excluded from the gardens for exercising their first amendment sue the manure out of these clowns…

  17. Like Burlington City residents need another excuse to leave the city? Frankly, it’s a head scratcher why anyone would live in or patronize Burlington. It encourages bad behavior.

  18. How deeply discriminatory this is. Atlas Shrugged! Who is John Galt? Until the Marxists came to town, everyone had a seat at the proverbial table. Now the people who have lived here their entire lives are being told we are inherently racist. THAT is a bald-face lie. It is tax payer dollars that are being spent for those community gardens. They have been there for 4 decades with some being added every year. My taxpayer dollars being contributed give me the right to grow whatever food I want in my plot. Fortunately, I have my own yard in which I can grow whatever I want. It makes me happy that everyone who has a passion for knowing where their food comes from can have a plot for a nominal fee. This list of made up definitions is beyond insulting. These inclusion diversity equity boards need to be eradicated. They do nothing but create division and hate, which is precisely what the end goal of communism is!! Our way of life and allowing so many refugees to call Vermont home is being destroyed. I believe that there should be a lawsuit to stop the communist agenda period!! I am a 9th generation Vermonter who will probably leave because no one cares about how our life is being destroyed from within by the Progressive/Communists.

  19. One more reason NOT to shop in burlington this Christmas Season…as if I need anymore reasons to steer clear. Merchants I hope you hear what this marxist city is becoming.

  20. Tactics like this one used by the city of Burlington leave us without straightforward options to quickly defend ourselves and keep on gardening, or going to school, or whatever activity we should be able to do without having to study case law and form a legal defense first. To me and to many VDC readers this agreement looks like a clear violation of my First Amendment Rights. It’s compelled speech.

    Additionally, although their language is the epitome of sleaziness to all of us who can quickly read right through it, they have chosen their code words (inclusion, diversity, a seat at the table, etc) very well to make them hard to quickly disagree with, and we may spend a lot of time defending our character. (My son was taught a couple years ago, “if you’re not anti-racist, then you are racist.” He pointed out that no 5th grader wants to argue with that logic in class, only to be called racist by the teacher in front of their friends. Also the comment time allotted to elementary school kids doesn’t allow for exposition of “anti-racist” as code words and propaganda). In the same way here, on the surface, what I’m refusing to agree to is inclusion, allowing everyone a seat at the table, things that objectively we all agree are good (unless they’re being forced on us by government.) I am tempted to put a lot of time and energy into defending myself, since they have set me up to say ”NO I refuse to be inclusive; I’m fine with unconscious bias!” when I refuse to sign. It’s tempting to point out that I am friendly to everyone, treat everyone the same regardless of skin color, language, education etc, and it can even be tempting to provide concrete examples, but that really grosses me out…it feels like lowering myself to their sleazy level at which they have reduced all “marginalized” people to pawns in their quest to keep political power. I will refuse to use any specific example of pure human-to-human interaction or even a general “I love meeting people from everywhere and getting to know them!” to show how inclusive, friendly, unbiased, etc I am. I want to keep all my great, interesting, and complex human interactions out of the context of my ongoing power struggle with bureaucrats.

    So when I engage with BACG, I’ll keep my argument focused on the actual First Amendment, and Supreme Court decisions, specifically around compelled speech.

    Gardeners and all people in this free country can be friendly and sociable if they wish, and keep to themselves as they wish. If there’s ever an instance of someone being treated unkindly in the garden I hope the kindness of the rest of us will make up for it. I’ve seen nothing but extreme kindness and generosity in 3 years of gardening. Although it was super inconvenient that BACG wouldn’t let us use the tools and water during COVID. We have police to deal with criminal threats and activity, so this agreement serves absolutely no practical purpose, in addition to being completely unenforceable (telling us what to think about and how to feel), and unconstitutional.

    I walked past a “Latinos Voten Ossof/Warnock” sign in a fellow gardener’s plot for a couple years. It didn’t mix well with the overall aesthetic but of course I just ignored it as best I could. I cannot imagine BACG would be as tolerant if I put a sign in support of Ron DeSantis in my plot, not that I’m going to…

    • Hello Jen ,Kim Carson , Burlington new racial equity director calls herself a transformation behavioral strategist :” According to her resume, Carson has experience planning and implementing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. She calls herself “a transformative behavioral strategist with over 20 years experience leading and developing employee efficiency, skills, and contribution to organizational culture.”
      Thus, if she has helped develop that inclusion statement , she is doing what she says her job is trying do do ” transform people’s behavior ” , so you are somehow reeducated .https://vtdigger.org/2022/11/03/burlington-mayor-appoints-new-director-of-racial-equity-inclusion-and-belonging/
      Also I imagine in view of the fact that Miro Weinberger hired knowing her resume, he must agree that Burlington must go through a behavior transformation process !

  21. Just a sneak preview of the control that will be levied on us when the digital currency scam is implemented. Mend your social behavior or else!

  22. “Gardener Re-Education” !?!?!? Taught by Lenin and Stalin? WTF? Vermont has gone off its meds.

    • As noted in the news story, the re-education reference was from an interested person’s email, not the City of Burlington – but the substance of the story is 100% accurate

  23. Looks to me that the Burlington Area Community Gardens (BACG), along with the City of Burlington and their policies, all filled with more “manure’ than all the 14 gardening sites combined will require for fertilization.

  24. If someone doesn’t like white people, that’s their business. Being a racist is a right. It is not illegal to be a racist in one’s personal belief and should never be used to deny public services which a racist pays tax for. If one doesn’t want to be seated with a white person in their privately owned home, so be it. Respectful tolerance is what makes this country FREE. If Christians do not approve of homosexuality that is their right and they should be able to express that view when asked. It is not a Christians right to hate that person. Someone’s behavior is very different than their human rights. What this Burlington task force does is divide people by infringing on their human rights. Human rights do not see white, black, bipoc, etc. It’s blind to such things. Human rights is the highest level of rights which should never be usurped by sub-categorical specific “rights”. Policies like these have no place in a democracy based on tolerance, individualism and freedom.

    • …the pinkos never left. They have since entrenched themselves into the seats of power in VT. They came to Vermont because it was cheap to live and no one told them how to live their lives. Now that they run the state, it is very expensive to live here and they tell everyone how to live their lives.

  25. Guess another option would be to use that fancy fertilizer, I think it is called Roundup, in the garden. Would allow everyone to move on to other crazy, divisive matters.

  26. Concerning BACG, all that can be said is “What a Bunch of Bigots”.
    No one should sign the pledge in that city!
    Shame on the City of Burlington (who should also be sued on this policy which appears to be totally discriminatory based on Vermont Constitutional Law, IMHO).
    The majority of good citizens who reside in that city ,upon exposure of this rule, should be outraged as well.

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