BACG's Tomato Races - 1987-1993

 BACG History Post #65

Tomato Two-MIler
Burlington Parks and Recreation partnered with Gardener's Supply to host the inaugural Tomato 2-Miler race on May 9, 1987. 

The race took place in conjunction with the grand opening of Gardener's Supply's new garden center on Intervale Road. 

Participating runners received a free tomato plant. Proceeds benefited Burlington Area Community Gardens.

The 1988 race moved to July 9. Free t-shirts were offered to the first 50 entries. The 1989-1991 Tomato 2-Miler Races were held in May.

Listed below are the top finishers in the 1988 Tomato 2-Miler. 

Here are the 1990 results:

The two-mile race continued through 1991. See listing to the right for the 1991 race.

The 1992 and 1993 races were 5k (3.1 miles). See results below for the 1993 race:

Randy Sightler, a runner who also gardened in the Intervale, shared memories of the Tomato 2-mile and Tomato 5k:

"The only course I remember clearly went up Intervale Rd. to Riverside, then to the right into the ONE (I believe lollipopping along Manhattan Dr. near the old dump road) and then back down to Gardeners," wrote Sightler.

"The hill up and down in a short race like that is unforgettable. Novel, too. I don’t know if Gordon MacFarland was race director or whether he was just helping out, but I remember him being there and quite involved. 

Gordon was either on a bike just ahead of the runners or maybe gave himself a bit of a lead up the hill. I remember him relishing the idea of racers pushing as hard as they could up that steep hill and maybe managing around 6 minute pace only to return and charge down that last section at something under 5 minute pace. It was either this race or another that I remember running the mile back down in something around 4:25 or 4:30."

In 1994, Gardener's Supply hosted a Tomato 5k/10k cross country run in the Intervale. The Tomato 5k reappeared on September 11, 1999 as a part of the Intervale Festival. The course started and finished at Ethan Allen Homestead. The calendar listing below was published in the Burlington Free Press.  

Burlington Parks and Recreation and politics - 1987-1988

 BACG History Post #64

Appointed by Mayor Gordon Paquette in 1967 to head the Burlington Parks department, Sid Baker worked for two decades to expand city parks and recreation opportunities.

Under Baker's leadership, the number of park properties owned and maintained by the City of Burlington doubled. New recreation programs were established, including the adoption of Burlington Area Community Gardens in 1987. In 1975, a city charter change created the Burlington Parks and Recreation department. 

A Burlington Free Press story published on September 16, 1987 reported that Baker would ask not to be reappointed in 1988 as superintendent of Burlington Parks and Recreation. 

Department heads are appointed annually by the mayor. City commissions, composed of appointed volunteers, oversee the operations of city departments and deal with each department’s current issues, general operations, budget, and personnel matters. Commission chairs report to the Mayor before making any final decisions.

According to the Burlington Free Press story, Baker, 50, found himself at odds with the Commission chairperson, Roxane Leopold and other commissioners over the maintenance of city parks. In his letter to the commission, Baker felt that it was time for a new department head to be appointed.

Baker's contributions to the landscape of Burlington were significant. After Dutch elm disease ravaged the city's elm-lined streets, Baker spurred the planting of 7,000 trees. 

A staunch supporter of community gardening, Baker initiated a partnership with Gardens for All in 1972 that established  the first modern-era community garden in Burlington, located at Oakledge Park. Fifteen years later, Baker approved Burlington Area Community Gardens becoming a city-sponsored program.

Don Bessler, 30, replaced Baker as superintendent during the summer of 1988. Bessler pledged to improve youth and adult activities, athletics, health and fitness activities, and special events.  

National Gardening Association grows its business - 1987

BACG History Post #63

At 180 Flynn Avenue, the National Gardening Association continued to grow from its Gardens for All roots.

The nonprofit's flagship publication, National Gardening Magazine, expanded by 16 pages and began to accept advertising.

NGA continued its educational mission by focusing on school and youth gardening via the GrowLab program and the National Youth Garden Grants program.

For public education, National Gardening Magazine's former editor, Ruth Page, launched NGA's gardening journal on Vermont Public Radio. 

Gardener's Supply moves to the Intervale - 1987

 BACG History Post #62

By 1987, Gardener's Supply had become one of the nation's major mail-order purveyors of gardening supplies and equipment. Founded in 1983 by Will Raap and seven investors, Gardener's Supply was an offshoot of Gardens for All, the nonprofit organization started by Lyman Wood in 1972.

From 1983 to 1986, Gardener's Supply operated from a warehouse at 133 Elm Street in Winooski. In 1986, GSC built a 22,000 square foot warehouse at 128 Intervale Road, on the site of the former John McKenzie Packing Company slaughterhouse.

The new building was financed with a $660,000 loan from the City of Burlington. Raap arranged with the City to set aside an acre of Intervale land to establish a compost project to process leaves and food waste into organic fertilizer. The joint goal was to promote urban gardening and resource conservation.

Burlington Parks and Recreation adopts BACG - 1987

 BACG History Post #61

Maggie Leugers wasted no time digging into her new role as the Burlington Parks and Recreation liaison for Burlington Area Community Gardens.

"Maggie was competent, fun, and she got things done," remembered Charlie Nardozzi, who served on the BACG advisory board.

"I loved recreation, from infancy through seniors," said Leugers. "I learned by doing how to run solid programs."

Leugers administered summer recreation programs reaching underserved groups and neighborhoods, as illustrated by a Rutland Herald article published on June 29, 1987.

BACG was one of many recreation offerings that Leugers took under her wing, from summer camps to after school programs to athletics. A consummate networker, she made connections with people and organizations across the city. 

"There was a learning curve for me with community gardens," said Leugers. "Thank heavens for the BACG board, which helped the transition to go smoothly."

Former BACG administrative assistant Megan Humphrey also pitched in to offer assistance.

"Megan worked with the city after school program as an artist," remembered Leugers. "I later found out that she was involved with community gardening. I used to meet with Megan at her home to do the layout and design for the BACG registration brochure."

Leugers worked with volunteer site coordinators on site logistics. Burlington Parks and Recreation contracted with Cornelius Reed, Jr. of Essex Junction to do spring tilling and fall plowing of garden sites. Leugers provided site maps to Reed. Site coordinators called Reed when they felt that their site was ready.

Burlington Parks division staff turned on the water at garden sites in the spring and blew out the water lines at the end of the season. Leugers worked closely with Bill Rasch, who was a master plumber, to make sure that water lines were maintained and to quickly fix occasional leaks.

"As the community gardens became more respected, they became part of the the fabric of the Parks and Recreation Department," said Leugers. "Everyone knew the timelines."

BACG board transitions to Parks and Recreation - 1987

BACG History Post #60

Following its final annual meeting on December 3, 1986, BACG's board of directors drafted a proposal for the City of Burlington to run the community garden program. 

Ike Isley volunteered to approach Sid Baker, the superintendent of Burlington Parks and Recreation. Baker was a staunch supporter of community gardening.

"Things were not going well for BACG," remembered Charlie Nardozzi, who joined the board in January, 1986. "Community gardens in other cities were run by Parks and Recreation departments. There was a sense of relief when Burlington Parks and Recreation offered to take the gardens in."

Nardozzi worked with Gardens for All from 1980 to 1982, first as a summer intern during his senior year at UVM, then as staff horticulturist. From 1982 to 1985, he served in the Peace Corps. 

Nardozzi returned to Vermont in the spring of 1985. He worked at the Four Seasons Garden Center in Williston for a year. In the fall of 1985, he was offered a teaching assistantship at UVM. He earned a Masters of Extension Education degree in 1987.

Lisa Halvorsen joined the BACG board in the fall of 1986. She was recruited by Nancy Crane to serve as board secretary. Crane, who served as a reference librarian at UVM, helped to preserve BACG archives as part of Special Collections at the UVM Library.   

Halvorsen moved to Burlington in 1975. She worked as a news editor and media specialist with UVM Extension. She enrolled in graduate courses, earning a Masters degree in Extension Education. Halverson began community gardening at the UVM Jughandle in 1976, during its final season.

"There were 200 gardens on a slope," remembered Halvorsen. My first garden plot was under water. The coordinator helped me relocate to an abandoned plot. We all shared a water spigot on the old Ag Engineering building. UVM was cranky about the water usage. They closed the Jughandle site after one year, saying it was too distracting for drivers."

Halvorsen relocated to the Orchard Community Garden off East Avenue. The soil was rocky, with gardens in between the rows of old apple trees. Gardeners watered their plants by dipping jugs into an underground stream covered by a manhole. UVM students occasionally foraged in the community plots when they returned to campus in August, to the dismay of the gardeners.

Barbara Prine served on the BACG board as a representative for Chittenden Community Action, where she was employed. By going through Community Action, limited income gardeners were able to qualify for reduced garden plot fees.

Isley, Nardozzi, Halverson, Crane, and Prine formed a core volunteer team to transition BACG from an independent nonprofit organization to a recreation program under Burlington Parks and Recreation. There were just a few weeks to get new registration forms ready for the 1987 community gardening season. 

Ray Tanguay headed the recreational services division of Burlington Parks and Recreation. He turned to a new city employee, Maggie Leugers, who was hired in 1986. Leugers coordinated after school programs for the City.

"I put a new proposal on your desk," Tanguay said to Leugers. "You've done some gardening, haven't you?"

Leugers came to Vermont in 1979 from Cincinnati, Ohio. Her bachelor's degree was in Community Urban Recreation. She and her husband, Mike Leugers, worked as dorm parents at Pine Ridge School from 1979 to 1986. She also served as a physical education teacher and summer program leader at Pine Ridge.

While working with the summer program in 1980, Leugers contacted Tommy Thompson at Gardens for All.

"Horticulture was an extracurricular activity at Pine Ridge," said Leugers. "We planted flowers on campus with the students. Tommy was lovely and helpful in giving us advice."

Nardozzi helped to facilitate the BACG board's transition to an advisory board under Burlington Parks and Recreation. The advisory board met monthly with Leugers at the Leddy Park office for Parks and Recreation.

Halvorsen took on the editor role for BACG's newsletter, Weed 'em and Reap, which continued under Burlington Parks and Recreation. Crane served on the BACG advisory board until 1992. Nardozzi and Halverson stayed on the board through 1994 and 1997, respectively.