Gardening Program

Community Gardens Program
to Transfer to Town of Blacksburg


Four decades ago,

the YMCA at Virginia Tech created the Community Gardens Program as a way for community members to come together and grow their own food. The past 40 years have seen tremendous growth and success of the gardens through the many location changes it has made in town. There is tremendous interest and demand today for programs of this type, so much so that the Y’s Community Gardens Program is transferring to the Town of Blacksburg. In conjunction with the Town, a new non-profit organization is being developed that will specifically focus on this type of programing. While we are sad to see this program leave the YMCA, we are pleased that it will continue as a vital part of our community.

The garden program began in the 1970’s in the backyard of Emily Stuart,

a longtime Director of the YMCA. Emily arrived in Blacksburg at a crisis point in the life of the Y.  In the early years of Virginia Tech history, the YMCA performed almost all of the non-academic functions of the University, consistently working to improve and enrich the lives of the students.  In fact, the YMCA:

  • Developed and published the first student handbooks
  • Conducted freshman orientations
  • Served as the social outlet for students.

Additionally, the YMCA opened the doors of its on-campus building in 1902,

signaling the commencement of an era in which the Y served as the center of campus life. The 1960’s saw the growth of the Student Union movement on campuses nationwide, which led to Virginia Tech taking over many of the programs the YMCA previously operated.  Under Emily’s guidance from 1970 to her retirement in 1987, the YMCA at Virginia Tech was transformed and revitalized. In fact, some of the activities initiated during this period were so successful that they spun off to become independent programs.

The Y has a long history of creating programs that address issues and needs in the community that are otherwise not being met.

For instance, the Y started activities to help provide international students with a support system and sense of community – this grew into VT’s Cranwell International Center. Additionally, from the planning to its implementation and growth, Y students created the university’s recycling program – this led to the creation of the Office of Sustainability. As Charles Colton said, “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery.” If this is indeed true, then the YMCA at Virginia Tech has much of which to be proud.

The Y strives to be a positive force in the life of both the VT campus and the surrounding community.

We will now increase our focus on serving the children of the area.  The Y’s current programs of after-school care, academic assistance, and children’s food access, (all of which are staffed and operated by Virginia Tech students), are robust and ongoing. However, with the great need for childcare in our area, the YMCA at VT is working on plans to open and operate a non-profit childcare center in Blacksburg.  We are excited to continue the YMCA’s deep tradition of seeing a need in the community, developing solutions, and initiating programs to serve those in need. We believe that Emily would be proud of the organization she revitalized and launched into the future of our community.