Community gardens take time - 1976

 BACG History Post #19

Community gardens in Rutland County
Gardens for All began the year of the bicentennial with high hopes. A May 16, 1976 article in the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus summed up the growth and growing pains of community gardening in Vermont. 

Please click the article and enlarge for viewing.

Judi Loomis of Gardens for All reported that 69 new community gardens were established in Vermont in 1975. Loomis indicated that over 1,200 community garden plots were tended in the greater Burlington area. 

Community gardens were taking off statewide and nationally. Rutland, Vermont's second largest city in 1976, hosted four community gardens. In its second year, the Rutland County Community Garden Project also supported community gardens in neighboring towns. 

The road was not easy. Of the two hundred Rutland County residents who signed up for community garden plots in 1975, fewer than half harvested any produce. Soggy garden sites, poor soil conditions, and inexperience growing vegetables led many people to give up on their gardens.

As in Burlington, community garden sites in Rutland often held year-to-year leases. Most did not have water systems. Organizers relied on local farmers volunteering to plow and harrow the garden sites, along with bringing in loads of manure.

Rutland Community Gardens ad
Organizers in Rutland realized the importance of establishing long-term community garden sites. For the 1976 season, gardeners paid a $10 plot fee to help cover costs. Planners hoped that the fee would build stakeholder equity and make the garden sites more financially independent.

The Rutland County garden organizers, Michael Beale and David Austin, were funded through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). CETA was a federal block grant program created in 1975 which spurred community garden development across the U.S.

Their goal was to engage the community gardeners in managing their sites. With grant funding scheduled to end in the fall of 1976, Beale and Austin could not take on long term responsibility for the community gardens. 

"You're not encouraging self-sufficiency if you do all the work," Beale said. "You're just giving people a free ride."

Across Vermont, Community Action agencies took a lead role in helping to organize community gardens, as described in another story from the May 16, 1976 Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus.

Please click the image to enlarge for viewing.

Community gardens new spirit

Rutland Opportunity Council community gardens