VCGN Announces New Executive Director

The Vermont Community Garden Network is pleased to announce the hiring of Michelle Gates of Westford as the organization’s new Executive Director.

Michelle joins the VCGN team with two decades of nonprofit leadership and development experience, most recently as Senior Vice President of Special Olympics Vermont. She is looking forward to applying her passion for helping all people perform at their best to increasing food access and community health through gardening. “VCGN’s mission is compelling and increasingly relevant as we face a health epidemic centering around the need for better nutrition and increased physical activity, and I’m excited to be part of a team delivering the many health benefits that community gardening provides,” Michelle said.

Michelle replaces Jessica Hyman, who led the nonprofit since 2011 as it grew from a Burlington-focused organization to a statewide network supporting 500+ community-based groups with garden leadership and development support, resources, and hands-on food and garden education. “It’s been a wonderful experience working alongside the VCGN staff and board, our garden partners, supporters, and friends.” Jess said. “I’m excited to see what’s next for this vibrant organization.”

Michelle starts at VCGN on Jan. 22. Jess will stay on part time through the beginning of February as they work together with the staff and board to ensure a seamless transition. Board Chair Chris Jacobson reflected,“The board is thankful to Jess for all she has brought to the organization. Jess and her team have really developed the culture of VCGN extending its impact into every region of Vermont. Under her stewardship VCGN has grown in scope and reach.” Joe McHugh, Board Treasurer, also remarked “We’re excited to have Michelle lead the organization as we look to solidify our services and help even more Vermonters gain access to fresh, healthy food from local community gardens. This year we’ll focus on planning for the future and look forward to having Michelle’s energy and experience help fuel that vision.”

The state’s more than 500 community-based gardens nourish tens of thousands of people in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, housing sites, senior centers, food shelves, early care and education sites, and more. VCGN’s resources, small grants, expert technical assistance, and high-impact trainings provide these local groups with tools to make positive change in our communities. VCGN’s hands-on food and garden education programs teach people of all ages how to grow and use their own food, which increases confidence and self-reliance in addition to food security.

Throughout VCGN’s programs and partnerships, we delight in helping children and adults realize their full potential and play an active role in their local food system and family success. Learn more at and join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to keep up with statewide garden news, events, and resources.