H.O. Wheeler Summer Gardening Program – 1972

 BACG History Post #6

H.O. Wheeler School garden program at Shelburne Farms - 1972
In the early 1970s, Nell Albert taught first grade at H.O. Wheeler Elementary School in Burlington’s Old North End. Delia O’Dwyer was director of the Follow Through Program, a part of Head Start.
Albert and O'Dwyer were interested in integrating hands-on arts, nutrition, and science lessons into the curriculum. Marilyn Leimenstoll*, an enrichment educator funded through a federal grant, worked with the teachers to model the techniques.

The idea of starting a summer group garden project soon sprouted. Albert and O’Dwyer reached out to Garden Way staffer Dick Raymond, who offered to help them get started. Alec Webb provided land for the garden at Shelburne Farms. Federal funding supplied money for seeds, tools, and equipment.

Flyers went home with H.O. Wheeler students during the spring of 1972. Fifteen Burlington families participated in the summer garden program. Ted Flanagan from the University of Vermont Extension Service worked with Dick Raymond to help families plant their gardens.

Mothers and fathers gardened with their children in plots at Shelburne Farms**. “We’re proud of our vegetables and we’re proud of ourselves,” commented a parent. Another mentioned the joy and economic benefits of growing fresh vegetables for her family. “This is the healthiest thing some of us have done in a long time,” said a third.

* Author's note: Marilyn Leimenstoll's father, Tommy Thompson, was hired in January 1973 to coordinate the Gardens for All community garden initiative. See BACG History posts #7 and #8.

** The H.O. Wheeler summer gardening program continued at Shelburne Farms through the 1976 season. The program started by Albert and O’Dwyer was carried forward in later years by the Visiting Nurse Association. The VNA's group garden program took place at the Orchard Community Garden off East Avenue during the 1980s and early 1990s, and at the New Americans Community Garden off North Avenue from 1994 to 1997. Since 1998, the VNA Family Room Garden has found its home within the Winooski Valley Park District community gardens at Ethan Allen Homestead.