BLACKSBURG — A pond faces Arlean Lambert’s house just off Bishop Road on the northern edge of town. Canada geese frequent her driveway. And as she sips water poured from a pitcher flavored with a few slices of lemon and mint leaves, she is briefly distracted by another bird that she says is there for a fishing stop.
Lambert’s crown jewel, however, is on the other side of her home: a 5-acre community garden where tomatoes and squash are just some of the crops grown there. The garden also features a greenhouse and collections of bee hives cared for by a local keeper.
Lambert recently made a move that she hopes helps keep the garden around for generations to come. She donated the garden to the town of Blacksburg, which she said gives the space access to town water and places it in the town’s park inventory.
Lambert said the garden may have never even happened had it not been for some conversations with her son, Jacob, more than 20 years ago when he was in college.
Lambert’s home previously belonged to her late parents who she said bought the property during the early 1970s. Following her father’s death in 1996, she said, her son began urging her to think about the property’s future.
Lambert, who lived in New Jersey at the time, said she initially told her son that the topic wasn’t pertinent at the time. But she said he persisted and pointed out the fact that Blacksburg was growing.
“‘Well, you’ve go to,’” Lambert said she recalled Jacob telling her about taking over her parent’s home. “‘They’ll come in there and tear it down and build a big box store.’”
Lambert’s mother died in 2003. In her mother’s will, Lambert said, she was the first to be given the option to take over the Blacksburg house.
Lambert said she was initially uncertain about exactly what to do with the property. But after some time, a person who worked for the town told her that the YMCA is often looking for space for a community garden.
Following her retirement as a school librarian in 2009, Lambert returned to Blacksburg and — in partnership with the YMCA at Virginia Tech — launched what is now known as the Hale Community Garden.
“I’m glad I came back,” Lambert said. “Jacob changed my life.”
The garden is also now managed by Live, Work, Eat, Gather Inc., a nonprofit also involved in the revitalization of the old Price’s Fork Elementary School.