Showing posts with label 1972-1974. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1972-1974. Show all posts

Community gardens from coast to coast - 1974

 BACG History Post #14

Community Gardens Growing - Sylvia Porter - 1974

Sylvia Porter (1913-1991) was the country's first personal finance columnist. She was a pioneer in the field of journalism who began writing about finance during the Great Depression. 

Porter's syndicated column, Your Money's Worth, appeared in newspapers across the country, including the Burlington Free Press and Rutland Herald.

In a column published in July, 1974, Porter wrote about the surge in vegetable gardening.

"Across the country, thousands of families are getting together, borrowing or leasing a few acres of vacant land, plowing and tilling them collectively, and dividing the space into a few dozen or a few hundred individual small plots." 

Gardens for All information packet - 1974
Porter's column listed the benefits of community gardening, including fresh food, exercise, and social contacts.

She encouraged readers to contact Gardens for All to request a free "how-to-do-it" manual for starting a community garden.

Led by the team of Tommy Thompson and Judy Loomis, Gardens for All responded to inquiries, while collecting information and building a contact list of community garden organizers in Vermont and nationwide.

Vermont Life Magazine story - Summer 1974

BACG History Post #13

Fred Stetson is a writer and photographer from Burlington who served as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. His Gardens for All feature story was published in the Summer 1974 issue of Vermont Life Magazine (Vol. 28 Issue 4).

Stetson documents the experience of first time community gardeners in Burlington and at Shelburne Farms during the 1973 season. The opening photo is from a community garden project developed by Gardens for All at the Franklin Square Housing Project in Burlington.

To view or download a high resolution pdf of the Vermont Life story please visit 

Vermont Life - Gardens for All - Summer 1974
Vermont Life - Gardens for All - Summer 1974
Vermont Life - Gardens for All - Summer 1974

Vermont Life - Gardens for All - Summer 1974

Vermont Life - Gardens for All - Summer 1974

Double or Nothing - 1974 expansion

BACG History Post #12

Community Gardens Ad - Burlington Free Press - 1974
Gardens for All kicked off the 1974 season with a gamble on growth. Community gardens in the greater Burlington area multiplied from a dozen sites in 1973 to 23 sites in 1974. Tommy Thompson led the effort to recruit volunteer chairpersons for each site. Gardens for All promised to prepare the sites, publish newsletters for participants, and provide resources.

Community gardening was promoted as an inflation-fighting strategy. Gardeners were asked to make a voluntary contribution to support the Gardens for All effort. However, no one would be turned away for lack of finances.

Each garden site was independent and free to develop its own rules and policies. Contact numbers for site chairpersons were published in the Burlington Free Press and local weeklies. The chairpersons at each site registered gardeners, collected Gardens for All donations, and provided registration information to Tommy Thompson.

Judi Loomis and James Lynch - Gardens for All - plants - 1974
For the second year, Gardens for All secured donations of free vegetable starts from Bonnie Plant Farms, one of the country's major plant suppliers.

The donated plants were distributed in May at Battery Park in Burlington and at the UVM jughandle off East Avenue.  

The owner of Bonnie Plant Farms, J.S. Paulk, had visited Gardens for All during the summer of 1973. Bonnie Plant farms in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Florida grew 400 million plants a year. 

Paulk was interested in working with Garden Way Associates to distribute plants to create community-school gardens nationwide.

Gardens for All sites - 1973 - Burlington Free Press
The new garden sites established in Burlington in 1974 included:

Medical Center (Corner of East Avenue and Colchester Avenue)

East Avenue Jughandle (UVM)

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral (Pearl Street)

UVM Extension Service garden specialist Ted Flanagan summed up the success of the 1974 season in an August column, which was published in newspapers across Vermont.

Community Gardens are Popular - Gardens for All - 1974

The Garden Way Living Center Opens - 1973

BACG History Post #11

The Garden Way Living Center was a Mecca for gardeners and homesteaders. Opened during the summer of 1973, the retail store was located at 1186 Williston Road* in South Burlington. 

The store was stocked with Troy Bilt® roto-tillers, Garden Way carts, gardening tools, seeds, guides, canning supplies, and food processing equipment.

Garden Way Living Center ad - 1974

The popularity of the Garden Way Living Center coincided with the rapid expansion of community gardening across Vermont, spearheaded by Tommy Thompson of Gardens for All.

Less than a mile from the store, dozens of new community garden plots were slated to become available in the spring of 1974. The University of Vermont provided land for community gardening at the East Avenue jughandle. Gardens for All coordinated site preparation. The jughandle garden site was in addition to the large Orchard community garden off East Avenue. A new community garden site also opened in 1974 at the UVM Medical Center, on the corner of East Avenue and Colchester Avenue.

* During the mid 1980s, the Garden Way Living Center transitioned into a factory outlet for Troy Bilt® rototillers. The factory outlet closed in 1988. Gardener's Supply Company opened a retail garden center in the Intervale to fill the void. Cheese and Wine Traders has occupied the former Garden Way Living Center building since 1991.

Vittorio Strainer - apple sauce - Jim Flint

Author's note: In the fall of 1982, I traveled from my rented farmstead in Ferrisburgh to the Garden Way Living Center in South Burlington, where Cheese Traders is now located. From the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, the store was the go-to place for "back to the landers."

I purchased a Vittorio Strainer and Mehu Maija Steamer Juicer that autumn day. During the past four decades, our family has used the ingenious food processing equipment during harvest season to make batches of tomato puree and pink applesauce.

Mehu Maija Steamer Juicer - Jim Flint

UVM's community garden connection - 1973

BACG History Post #10

1973 was a watershed year at the University of Vermont. In February, the university's trustees faced a situation of deficit financing accompanied by reduced federal and state support.

The Trustees approved increases to room and board, fees, and nonresident tuition. Tuition increases for Vermont students remained on the table.

In May, 1973, UVM’s president Edward Andrews, Jr., proposed a sweeping reorganization of colleges and departments.

University of Vermont Reorganization - 1973

UVM's College of Agriculture, the flagship of the land grant university, was affected by the reorganization. Forestry and Recreation Management programs were transferred from the Ag College to the School of Natural Resources. Home Economics was transferred from the Ag College to a school of its own.

Tommy Thompson began outreach work with Gardens for All in January, 1973. He arranged meetings with Thomas Dow, dean of the College of Agriculture; Robert Davidson, director of the UVM Extension Service; and Sam Wiggins, chair of the Plant and Soil Science Department.

The climate at the College of Agriculture was not particularly favorable to new programs, especially those not directly related to farming and agri-business. Thompson’s idea of establishing community gardens on UVM land was rejected by Dow, Davidson, and Wiggins.

Tommy Thompson was patient. He reached out to UVM's newly created Environmental Studies Program, the first of its kind offered at a New England University. The program was a favorite of President Andrews, who wanted the Environment Studies curriculum integrated into all disciplines.

Carl Reidel was the program’s director. Reidel was consumed with getting the curriculum approved through the various schools and colleges on campus. He handed Thompson's inquiry off to Tom Hudspeth, assistant director of the Environmental Studies Program. Reidel wanted Hudspeth to take the lead on outreach and extension projects.

Hudspeth was hired by UVM in August 1972, after earning his Masters degree at the University of Michigan. As a graduate student, he had been part of a multicultural community garden in Ann Arbor. Many of the ethnic vegetable varieties raised in the gardens were new to Hudspeth, who grew up in Houston.

The Environmental Studies Program was open to action-oriented projects that went beyond the traditional model of undergraduate education. Projects could include working with community and nonprofit organizations.

UVM Environmental Studies Program - 1973

At a spring reception, Hudspeth talked with President Andrews about Thompson’s idea for a community garden program. Andrews expressed interest. He gave Hudspeth his card and asked if there was anything he could do to make the program a success.

“I called the number on the card,” said Hudspeth. Expecting to reach a secretary, he was amazed when President Andrews answered the call. “Come to my office,” he said to Hudspeth.

Hudspeth and Andrews met with Larry Snyder, UVM’s head of development, who oversaw buildings and grounds. "We poured over maps to figure out good sites for gardens," said Hudspeth.

UVM maintained several acres of land in an apple orchard parallel to East Avenue. The trees were planted in wide rows with ample space in between the trees. The Orchard site was approved as the first community garden on UVM land.

A second community garden site was added behind the UVM Admissions building on South Prospect Street. UVM owned land at the East Avenue jughandle. The jughandle site was plowed during the fall of 1973 to support community gardens opening the following spring.

Hudspeth community gardened first at the Orchard site, then later at the Admissions site which he helped to coordinate in 1973 and 1974. He remembers Tommy Thompson being resourceful in arranging for truckloads of fresh compost to be delivered to the community garden sites. The Gardens for All newsletter below encouraged leaf composting at the UVM sites.

Everyone can have a garden - Spring 1973

BACG History Post #9

By March 1973, Gardens for All had grown from a marketing concept into a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit was one of six businesses under the umbrella of Garden Way Associates, based in Charlotte, VT. Lyman Wood served as president of the board of directors. 

Free Garden Plots ad - Gardens for All - 1973Garden Way Manufacturing, based in Troy, NY, was the financial backbone for Garden Way Associates. Three hundred employees worked at the Troy factory making and marketing Troy-Bilt roto-tillers. From 1961 to 1972, roto-tiller sales doubled each year. 

A portion of the profits from roto-tiller sales were put into promoting gardening as a way of life. Developing home and community gardens was central to Lyman Wood's vision of a self-sufficient lifestyle centered on food production.

B.H. "Tommy" Thompson knew how to community organize. He arranged meetings with private landowners, church and neighborhood leaders, and with municipal, school, and university officials. Thompson was able to secure commitments from landowners to host new community garden sites. These sites were in addition to the Cliffside and Shelburne Farms community gardens started by Gardens for All in 1972.

Tommy Thompson - rototilling garden - 1973

Preparation of the community garden sites began in April, 1973. The Burlington Free Press photo shows Thompson at work roto-tilling a new garden site off North Avenue in a field owned by the Presbyterian Church. 

The church owned a five-acre parcel* opposite the entrance/exit to the Burlington beltway (Rt. 127), which connects North Avenue to Manhattan Drive.   

Other community garden sites begun in 1973 in Burlington included: 
  • UVM Admissions off South Prospect Street
  • Baird School off Pine Street
  • Catholic Charities site behind St. Joseph's Center off North Avenue
  • Champlain School site near the bus barns
  • Orchard site on UVM land off East Avenue
  • Appletree Point site on Peisch land off Staniford Road
  • Northgate Apartments site on Gambero land
  • The Mount St. Mary's Convent site off Mansfield Avenue
* Author's note: The community garden opposite the entrance to Rt. 127 lasted through the 1977 season. In 1978, the Presbyterian Church sold their land off North Avenue to the North Avenue Alliance Church. The Alliance Church broke ground at the North Avenue site in 1983 to construct a large church and school facility.      

Who was Tommy Thompson?

 BACG History Post #8

Tommy Thompson - Gardens for All office
Bryson H. Thompson was born in Shelburne, Vermont on August 11, 1917. He was the youngest of four children born to Thomas M. Thompson and Alice Bryson Thompson. 

During his early teen years, Bryson was an honor student at Shelburne Junior High School and a Boy Scout in the local troop. The family had a camp at Cedar Beach in Charlotte.

Following the divorce of his parents, Bryson moved to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1932 with his mother, Alice Bryson Thompson, his sister Jean, and his brother Shirll. His father remarried and remained in Shelburne.

Bryson and Jean returned to Shelburne to spend summers with their father. The elder Thompson was an insurance salesman and an active participant in community and civic affairs. He served as chair of the local school board, town constable, sheriff, fire warden, and game warden. Thompson represented the Town of Shelburne for two terms in the state legislature. He died in 1950.

After graduating from Central High School in Springfield, Mass., Bryson attended Bay Path Institute, also located in downtown Springfield. He graduated in 1938 and went to work as the terminal manager for Gay’s Express trucking company in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Mary Siliski graduated from Springfield High School, in Springfield, Vermont. She attended Brattleboro Business Institute, which was an extension campus of Baypath Institute. She was hired as a bookkeeper at Gay's Express, where she met Bryson Thompson, who was two years older.

Bryson gave Mary a ride home from work so that she would not have to walk past a cemetery in the dark. They married in August 1942 at the Russian Orthodox church in Springfield, Vermont. Bryson was inducted into the U.S. Army a few days after the wedding. He completed basic training at Fort Devens, in Massachusetts.

During World War II, Thompson served as a cryptographic technician operating equipment used to code, decode, and transmit secret information. Since radio signals could be intercepted, the major Axis and Allied powers used complex machines to turn text into code. Breaking the German and Japanese codes was vital to predicting troop movements and protecting shipping on the high seas. Cryptography allowed President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to communicate securely.

After being discharged from the Army Air Force, Thompson worked as an accountant at Hartford Mills. In 1946, he and his wife purchased a vintage 1930s road house on Route 5, in Ascutney, Vermont. Four, Five, and six-piece groups played big band music there to large crowds. They renamed the establishment “The Top Hat Restaurant.” A lounge was added in 1949.

People came from a 40-mile radius to the popular night spot where Thompson tended bar. Though the Top Hat was the place for many happy celebrations, trouble occasionally popped up. When Thompson refused to serve an intoxicated customer on April 4. 1957, the drunken man got into a scuffle with Thompson. The man later threw rocks through the windows of the lounge causing $300 in damage.

The Thompsons owned and operated the Top Hat for 25 years. The couple sold the Top Hat, their home in Ascutney, and the Ascutney laundromat in the fall of 1971. They moved to nearby Windsor VT. Thompson became restless. He looked for something new to do.

The Thompson’s only daughter, Marilyn Leimenstoll, was an enrichment educator and community activist in Burlington. She provided professional development training for teachers working with the Follow Through Program, which was part of Head Start. The program was based at H.O. Wheeler Elementary School in Burlington’s Old North End.

In the spring 1971, Leimenstoll and the H.O. Wheeler teachers developed a curriculum that put arts and science together. They began with indoor activities with seeds and plants, then started a small outdoor garden project at the school. A summer gardening and day camp program was the next step.

Leimenstoll became friends with Alec Webb, whose father Derick Webb owned Shelburne Farms. The Webbs provided land for the summer day camp. Children and counselors were recruited from the Old North End of Burlington and surrounding towns. 

Leimenstoll and Alec Webb worked together during the summer of 1971 to coordinate the camp sessions. Children were taught gardening and conservation, along with weaving, potting, dancing, and writing. Leimenstoll led four two-week teacher training courses focusing on environmental education. 

The summer day camp at Shelburne Farms expanded to a family group garden project in 1972. Staff from Gardens for All, Lyman Woods' fledgling not for profit initiative, helped 15 families learn how to grow vegetables. 

Wood was looking for someone to coordinate a broader community garden program. Alec Webb had met Leimenstoll's father, Tommy Thompson. Webb recommended that Thompson get in touch with Wood about the new position. 

With his military training, business experience, interest in gardening, and outgoing nature, Thompson was the perfect person for the job. Known by his father's nickname, "Tommy," he began work with Gardens for All in January, 1973.

Tommy Thompson gardening at Shelburne Farms
The photo, provided by Tommy's daughter Marilyn, shows Thompson planting a garden with his family at Shelburne Farms during the early 1970s.

Gardens for All hires Tommy Thompson - January, 1973

 BACG History Post #7

Tommy Thompson - Gardens for All - Spring 1973

The success of the 1972 community garden pilot projects prompted Lyman Wood to convert the Gardens for All program into a nonprofit organization. 

Wood hired Tommy Thompson, a retired restaurant owner from Ascutney, Vermont, to spearhead the community gardens initiative.

Thompson began work in January, 1973. He moved to Burlington and lived in a house on Maple Street. His first-year goal was to help 1,000 families in the greater Burlington area to plant and tend 700 vegetable gardens.

Gardeners would pay no fee to use the garden plots located on public and private land.
Potential community garden sites were identified by networking with civic leaders, churches, schools, businesses, and land owners.

Thompson attended neighborhood meetings and community gatherings to recruit site coordinators and gardeners. The goal was to help the community gardens to become self-managing and self-sufficient.

“We have found that there are many people who would like to garden but don’t own land,” Thompson said. “At the same time, many acres of land, sometimes less than a block away from their homes, may lie idle or only lightly used for other purposes. Why not, then, create a program that would put people and garden plots together no matter where they live.”

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. 

Cliffside Community Garden launches - 1972

 BACG History Post #5

Cliffside Community Garden - 1972 - Burlington Parks
The Burlington Parks Department wasted no time developing its new acquisition of Oakledge (Cliffside) Park. The 1972 project budget of $45,000 funded the installation of four lighted tennis courts, two Little League fields, and a 25-table picnic area. A setback occurred when an August storm toppled 42 trees. 

The half-acre Cliffside Community Garden launched in the spring as a cooperative project of the Burlington Parks Department and Gardens for All, based in Charlotte, VT. The community garden was divided into 24 plots. More than 70 people applied.

The Cliffside Community Garden was located south of the Flynn Avenue entrance to Oakledge Park in the area where Bocce courts are currently located. The garden site operated from 1972 through 1978

An October 1972 editorial in the Rutland Herald described the success of the pilot project.

Gardens for All Ad Campaign - 1972

BACG History Post #4

Gardens for All ad campaign - 1972
Lyman Wood was one of the first leaders to develop the “not for profit only” mission-oriented concept of doing business. Profits from roto-tillers and Garden Way carts were put back into ventures to make the world a better place.

The Gardens for All campaign launched in February 1972. Saturation ads were placed liberally in the Burlington Free Press and a host of weekly newspapers. Dick Raymond was a key figure in the program, providing horticultural assistance and gardening lectures.

The ad campaign intended to attract prospective gardeners with no land of their own and match them with experienced garden coaches. The focus was on the priceless joy and satisfaction of growing your own fresh, delicious, and healthy vegetables. 

Garden coaches helped to prepare the land for gardening. He or she was expected to work with a gardener for a year and then work themselves out of a job.