Showing posts with label 1900-1971. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1900-1971. Show all posts

A wartime legacy of community gardens in Burlington

BACG History Post #58

The modern era of community gardening in Burlington began in 1972, when the Cliffside Community Garden was established at Oakledge Park. The half-acre community garden was a partnership between the Burlington Parks Department and Gardens for All, a nonprofit initiative based in Charlotte, Vermont.

The United States was still heavily involved in the Vietnam War during 1972. On the home front, the war contributed to higher prices for food, energy, and commodities. Worldwide, a decline in grain production led to food shortages and price spikes. 

The Cliffside Community Garden was not the first community garden site in Burlington. Historically, community gardens emerged in Burlington during periods of war and economic uncertainty. Making garden plots available to the public served as a response to food shortages during World War I, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and World War II.

Victory Gardens in Burlington VT -1943

In spring 1943, land was lined up to create more than 300 Victory Garden plots. A Burlington Free Press story reported that garden plots ranging from 25 ft. x 50 ft. to 100 ft. x 50 ft. were planned.

Victory Gardens were located at Mt. St. Mary's Academy off Mansfield Avenue, the Flynn Estate land off Shelburne Road and Flynn Avenue, and the Walter Edlund property off Spear Street.

The Burlington Street Department used sidewalk plow tractors to prepare the land for gardens. Street Department employees were among the Victory Gardeners. 

In Burlington's South End, South Park and land around the Baird School were Victory Garden sites. Along North Avenue, the Parks Department leased ten acres of the Arthur Property for Victory Gardens.

Burlington Free Press article on Victory Gardens

The Arthur property was also used for "community war garden plots" during WWI. One hundred and thirty garden plots were created after the meadow was plowed and harrowed.

Community gardeners worked diligently to overcome the crop of witch grass which sprouted in the virgin soil. An infestation of rose bugs swept the city in July, nearly wiping out the garden crops.

A Burlington Free Press article on July 4, 1918 (see below) reported that the city garden committee applied "gallons of poisonous spray" to defeat the swarms of rose bugs which defoliated plants. "A spirit of congeniality and good fellowship" was noted as a "remarkable feature of the entire project."

The article noted that "everybody helps everybody else, and in that way happiness and contentment reign supreme. The gardens are worked from as early as five o'clock in the morning to after dark each night."

World War I community gardens in Burlington VT

Pilot Community Garden Proposal - 1971

BACG History Post #3

In June 1971, Cliffside Country Club sold its 45-acre property in the South End of Burlington to the City of Burlington. Federal and state funds paid most of the $230,000 cost. The City’s share was under $25,000. The Burlington Fire Department burned the Country Club building in July 1971 to pave the way for the new park.

Cliffside Community Garden proposal - Gardens for All

Garden Way Research eyed the public land as a site for a pilot community garden project. Sky Thurber presented the proposal to Burlington Parks Superintendent Sidney Baker and the Parks Commissioners in September, 1971. The proposal was questioned at first by some commissioners. Commissioner C. Lyman Calahan noted that the plan for a community garden showed promise. He asked what the difference was between considering a garden vs. a softball or Little League Field.

After the University of Vermont declined the first option to develop a community garden at the new park, the Parks Commission accepted the Garden Way Research proposal in November, 1971. A site near the Flynn Avenue entrance to Cliffside was plowed in preparation for the spring 1972 opening. Cliffside would become Oakledge Park later that year.

Community Gardens for All - first steps - 1971

BACG History Post #2
Gardens for All ad - 1971

The Vermont branch of Garden Way was interested in finding ways to promote vegetable gardening and improve garden access for city dwellers who did not have a suitable garden place of their own. This ad seeking community garden participants and volunteer organizers was placed in the Burlington Free Press in August 1971.

In September 1971, Lyman Wood drafted a Garden Way Programs for Communities document. The sweeping vision included model gardens, publicly and privately supported community gardens, garden-based education programs for schools and adults, Garden Way markets for produce, and composting operations.
Community Gardens for All - Lyman Wood - vision
Wood and his Garden Way associates, Dick Raymond and Schuyler "Sky" Thurber, visited the Fenway Community Gardens, in Boston, to research their ideas. 

The former WWII Victory Gardens served as their model for a plan to create a community garden program on a smaller scale for Burlington residents.

Lyman Wood - Garden Way visionary

Lyman Wood - Gardens for All - Charlotte VT

BACG History Post #1

Lyman Wood (1910-1996) was a consummate entrepreneur. Born in Mt. Vernon, NY, his family purchased a summer camp at Cedar Beach in Charlotte in 1920. With three friends, he formed his first company at age 13, buying candy and other goods in Burlington and selling them to the enclave of summer camp residents at Cedar Beach. After early schooling in New York and Connecticut, he graduated from the University of Vermont in 1932 with a degree in physics. 

Wood worked for an advertising agency in New York City from 1936 through the WWII years. In 1944, he and a friend, Jack Robinson, published the "Have More Plan," a 70-page booklet which became the bible for the postwar back to the land movement. 

In the late 1940s, Wood put his advertising skills to work for Rototiller, Inc. The company became Watco, Inc in 1961. Wood served as a consultant to Watco. 

Wood moved to Vermont permanently in 1951. He set up an advertising agency, Precision Marketing Associates. Wood launched several entrepreneurial adventures, including a company that built garden carts. The Garden Way Publishing Company was established in 1966 in Charlotte, VT by Wood and three partners.

In 1967, Wood and his partners purchased Watco Inc. through their company, Precision Marketing Associates. Watco became the Garden Way Manufacturing Company in 1968. During the 1970s, Precision Marketing Associates became Garden Way Associates. 

Wood worked with Garden Way Manufacturing to develop a profitable business manufacturing Troy Bilt® roto-tillers from a factory in Troy, New York. The rear-end tillers were sold by mail order.

During the 1970s, Wood developed the Garden Way complex on Ferry Road in Charlotte. The Vermont operations included a manufacturing facility producing Garden Way carts, together with the headquarters for Garden Way Publishing and Garden Way Research. Garden Way Associates promoted Wood's vision of the “Garden Way of Life.” A Burlington Free Press article published on March 30, 1973 describes the emerging home and community garden movement.