Showing posts with label 1975-1978. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1975-1978. Show all posts

Community gardening across Vermont - 1978

BACG History Post #26

Vermont Gardening column by Carol Howe

As Gardens for All consolidated sites in the Burlington area, the community garden movement across Vermont experienced similar trend. 

In her weekly column dated April 2, 1978, garden writer Carol Howe aptly described the history and landscape of community gardening in southeastern Vermont.

"Sponsored by Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), community gardening spread and grew. Coordinator Laurie Stearns of North Springfield found land to use, arranged for water and tilling and was able to offer vegetable seeds at reduced rates.

Families signed up eagerly. Gardening became a sociable thing, with growers swapping surplus or figuring ways to rout the woodchuck in the zucchini patch. 

For some, gardening was a new-found talent as bushels of potatoes and barrows of squash grew because of careful tending. Others found they hadn't the patience to keep at it; their plots were sad squares in the odd patchwork garden picture. Those who had grown up on farms recalled old skills and learned new ones."

Howe reported that SEVCA would not be sponsoring community gardens in 1978. In Springfield, oversight for the community garden was transferred to volunteers under the auspices of the Parks, Recreation, and Leisure Department.

Please click the article images to enlarge for viewing. 

An article in the April 20, 1978 Rutland Herald described Rutland as a "garden city," a term for an urban area which seeks to enjoy the advantages of both city and country life. 

Vermont's second largest city was home to four community gardens that year. The largest site, with 79 plots, was located off Woodstock Avenue across from Rutland High School. Organic garden plots were located in separate areas of Rutland's community gardens. Senior citizens and youths were actively recruited in a preemptive effort to curb vandalism of garden plots.

Community Gardens Add Green Touch - Rutland Herald

Author's Notes: Carol Howe (1923-2017) was a lifelong gardener and writer. She began producing a newspaper garden column in 1974 and had a nearly unbroken 42-year streak of  weekly columns. Howe lived in Springfield, Vermont during the 1970s. Her Vermont Gardening column appeared in the Rutland Herald and other newspapers. 

The community garden site off Woodstock Avenue in Rutland was reinvigorated during the mid 2000s. The site is the largest of two community gardens currently overseen by the Rutland Recreation and Parks Department.

Mapping the community garden movement - 1978

 BACG History Post #25

From the Gardens for All headquarters at Shelburne Farms, Tommy Thompson and staff tracked the expanding community garden movement. In an April 9, 1978 news article. Burlington Free Press staff writer Doug Adrianson compared the castle-like setting at the Farm Barn to a James Bond movie.

"In a dusky room on the second floor, a team of people monitor information from around the world, keeping voluminous cross-indexed files and pushing color-coded pins into a wall map to show how operations are going in different sectors," wrote Adrianson.

Please click the article image to increase the viewing size:

Tommy Thompson mapping the garden movement

Community gardens in the greater Burlington area consolidated in 1978, decreasing to approximately 20 sites, half of which were in Burlington. The 1977 Gallup survey projected that 43% of American households gardened. Lyman Wood of Garden Way Associates estimated that the percentage of gardening households in Chittenden County was closer to 60%.

1978 community gardens in Burlington: 

UVM Admissions site off South Prospect Street
Orchard site off East Avenue
Medical Center site off East Avenue and Colchester Avenue
Catholic Charities site off North Avenue
Winooski Valley Park District site at Ethan Allen Homestead
Baird School land off Pine Street and Home Avenue
Cliffside site at Oakledge Park
Frank Mazur private land at 228 Shelburne Road
Rock Point site
Champlain School site 

Author's note: Doug Adrianson moved on from the Burlington Free Press to write for the Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times. He played an instrumental role in starting the Edible Communities locavore movement and has served as copy editor for 30 of the Edible Community magazines.  

Gardens for All - a national nonprofit - 1977

 BACG History Post #24

Home gardening declines in 1976
1977 was a year of transition for Gardens for All. The nonprofit began branding itself as "Gardens for All,  The National Association for Gardening." 

A subtle shift in the American gardening landscape was simultaneously taking place. The 1976 Gallup poll showed that inflation had been the initial driver behind the boom in vegetable gardening. The 1977 Gallup poll revealed that outdoor recreation was a major impetus for people growing their own food.

The 1977 Gallup poll showed a decline in home vegetable gardening for the first time in six years. Gardens for All attributed the decline to attrition from the rush of inexperienced gardeners who planted gardens to offset inflation and high food prices. 

Recognizing the need to educate and train garden organizers, step-by-step guidebooks were published in 1977 to support the community garden movement.

At the federal level, Rep. George Brown of California introduced a bill in 1977 to support community gardening. The National Gardening Act was referred to the House Agricultural Committee, where testimony was taken. In testimony before Congress, Tommy Thompson said:

"Whenever a governor or mayor endorses a community garden program and offers some financial and material assistance, there is an enthusiastic move by community members to raise their own food; there is also the social change of the people themselves, the involvement of children, and the sense of pride among the community."

Lyman Wood
As Gardens for All transformed into a national organization, Garden Way Associates shepherded the nonprofit's growth. Lyman Wood served as chairman of Garden Way's board of directors. 

In 1976, the Garden Way board moved away from the standard corporate ethic of maximizing profits for shareholders. The board agreed to accept lower profits in order to fulfill the mission of bringing the "Garden Way" of living to as many people as practical. 

As reported in a July 31, 1977 story in the Rutland Herald and Barre Times-Argus, Wood estimated that Garden Way Associates had put $200,000 into Gardens for All. He fully intended for that investment to boost the entire multi-pronged Garden Way enterprise.

"You get a lot of free publicity and much more mileage out of advertising, You get good will on the part of customers and prospects, who are then more inclined to buy from you, pay higher prices, pay in advance, and be more patient and understanding. You get a lot more cooperation from almost everyone in regard to almost anything you want to do," Wood said.

Plants for people - 1977

BACG History Post #23

Tommy Thompson and Judi Loomis - Lakeview greenhouse
The 1977 growing season marked the beginning of community garden consolidation in Burlington. Garden sites lost at the East Avenue jughandle and UVM water tower were offset by new community gardens in the surrounding towns of Colchester, Winooski, Essex, and South Burlington.

The Lakeview Cemetery greenhouse off North Avenue was put into service starting plants for community gardeners. Tommy Thompson (left) and Judi Loomis coordinated plant distribution.  

A Burlington Free Press article on May 17, 1977 indicated that plots were still available at 14 community garden sites. Gardens for All announced that all other garden sites were filled.

The largest Gardens for All site was the UVM Orchard community garden off East Avenue, as shown in this 1977 aerial view. The Orchard site was one of the original community gardens established in 1973. 

Gardens for All sites 1977

A new lease on life - 1976

 BACG History Post #22

Tommy Thompson letter to the Winooski Valley Park District
Tommy Thompson traveled to Birmingham, England in September 1976 to attend the International Leisure Gardening Congress. 

He was one of two delegates from the United States. The other delegate, Susan York Drake, worked in the Lake Central Regional Office of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, which was part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Drake worked to develop and support community gardens in major U.S. cities including Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago. She prepared a guide to help teach cities how to organize urban community gardens.  

In testimony before Congress, Drake said, "What we have found with community gardening is that to have programs simply for low income families does not work. They fold up."

"However if you develop a neighborhood program that anyone is allowed to be in, you see a lot of self-help. You see people relating who do not normally relate. There is the possibility of other opportunities."

The allotment gardens of Great Britain and other European countries were decades, if not centuries, ahead of the community gardening movement in America. In the U.S., community gardens were often viewed as temporary uses of land to provide food for low income people. Europe's allotment gardens tended to be well-established permanent sites where people from diverse walks of life grew food on family plots and socialized.

Community gardeners at Ethan Allen Homestead
In his letter to the director of the Winooski Valley Park District, Tommy Thompson envisioned the possibilities for a permanent community garden site at Ethan Allen Homestead. 

He wrote, "We are deeply appreciative of the Park District land and hope we can make it an exemplary project in the Burlington area."

Author's note: The photo shows community gardeners harvesting produce at the Ethan Allen Homestead garden site, circa 1980. 

Access to the Winooski Valley Park District land during the 1970s and early 1980s was from Van Patten Parkway in the New North End. The northern extension of Route 127 was opened in the mid 1980s, along with the cloverleaf entrance to Ethan Allen Homestead. Bike paths from the Old North End and New North End were added in later years.

The Winooski Valley Park District has realized Tommy Thompson's vision for a diverse permanent community garden site. Over the years, the Park District has hosted the Children's Discovery Garden, VNA Family Room Garden, Community Teaching Garden, raised bed senior gardens, and the New Farms for New Americans Program, in addition to the original community garden site at Ethan Allen Homestead. 

Borrowed land, borrowed time - 1976

 BACG History Post #21

After four years of work shepherding the community garden movement, Gardens for All had its hands full in 1976. Within the greater Burlington area, twenty-seven community garden sites were the result of GFA's organizing effort. GFA estimated the nationwide count at a thousand community garden sites. 

The community gardens that Gardens for All helped to start in Burlington and surrounding towns would need to become more self-managing to survive. The situation was complicated by the temporary nature of land agreements, along with attrition and year-to-year turnover of community gardeners.    

In Burlington, senior housing planners eyed the prime building lot beside St. Paul's Cathedral for the Cathedral Square Housing Project. A community garden occupied the site during the 1974 and 1975 growing seasons. Although construction of Cathedral Square was not slated to begin until 1977, the St. Paul's community garden site was discontinued before the 1976 season began.

To assist displaced gardeners, new community garden sites were opened in the spring of 1976. The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont provided garden space beside its headquarters on Rock Point. The Winooski Valley Park District provided garden space at the Ethan Allen Homestead. Future Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss was one of the St. Paul's community gardeners who relocated to the new community garden at the Homestead.

The UVM community garden sites near the East Avenue jughandle and on Watertower Hill experienced challenges during the 1976 season. 

UVM students who planted garden plots in the spring tended to travel or move away during the summer, creating maintenance issues. 

The community garden plots at the East Avenue jughandle may have also become a distraction for drivers, according to an anecdotal story shared by a garden organizer.

This photo, which appeared in the November 10, 1976 Burlington Free Press, became prophetic. The UVM community garden sites below the Watertower and East Avenue jughandle were discontinued after the 1976 season.

Tommy Thompson recognized the need to establish long term leases for community garden sites. Land security would lead to an investment in soil improvement, planting of perennials including small fruits and berries, and the installation of water systems - all keys to sustainability. 

On the edge at Cliffside - 1976

BACG History Post #20

The Cliffside Community Garden at Oakledge Park was Burlington's first community garden, established in 1972 by Gardens for All and the Burlington Parks Department.

As Oakledge Park became more popular, the park became an after hours hangout for partiers. The community gardeners at Cliffside experienced vandalism and stealing of produce.

An August 19, 1976 letter to the editor of the Burlington Free Press voiced a gardener's sense of loss and frustration.

The letter writer proposed that the Parks Department close off Oakledge Park to motorized traffic and create a parking lot at the entrance.

Despite challenges, the Cliffside community garden continued at Oakledge Park through the 1978 gardening season.

The Cliffside community garden was located south of the Flynn Avenue entrance to Oakledge Park. Bocce courts currently occupy the former garden site.

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

Community gardens poised to peak - 1976

 BACG History Post #18

Gardens for All Gallup Survey - 1976
Gardens for All relied on systematic data gathering to identify trends and plan strategy at the local, state, and national levels.   

From July to October, 1975, Gardens for All commissioned the Gallup organization to conduct a national sample of 3,000 men and women, 18 years of age and older.

From the survey results, Gardens for All estimated that more than 35 million households were involved in vegetable gardening during the 1975 season.  

Gardens for All projected that 51% of U.S. households planned to vegetable garden during the 1976 season. 

This represented the highest percentage of households growing their own food since the Victory Garden years of WWII.

The Gallup Survey was used to build public support for GFA's local, state, and national initiatives. Several key issues were identified:

1) Gardens were more common among higher income people than lower income people.

2) Non-white people were less likely to have a vegetable garden than white people. 

3) More people would grow their own food if more public and private land were to become available for community gardens.

The January 26, 1976 Burlington Free Press article shares the survey findings. Please click the image above to enlarge for viewing.

Get Me to a Cannery - 1975

BACG History Post #17

Canning jar shortage 1974

On September 7, 1974, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reported that canning jars, lids, and supplies were in short supply. Local retailers were challenged by long lead times, back orders, and limited storage space for canning jars.

Canning and preserving workshops were held across Vermont. Freezer lockers were rented by gardeners. Community canneries were proposed as a solution for safely preserving the harvest. 

The concept of community canneries was not new. In 1934, the Food Conservation Program was implemented as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) - which became the Works Projects Administration in 1939. The WPA was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal plans to alleviate the Great Depression by providing public works projects to stimulate employment and the economy. 

Under the Food Conservation Program, community canneries were designed to thwart hunger and train people in the proper methods of food preservation. During WWII, the cannery program was vital to supporting the efforts of Victory Gardeners to boost home food production. 

By the end of WWII, there were over 3,800 community canneries in the U.S. The local canneries phased out after the war as federal subsidies waned. Large scale agriculture and commercial canneries expanded, providing cheap canned goods for grocery stores and supermarkets. 

Canning jar shortage - 1974
Gardens for All had a potential dilemma on its hands. Scenes of surplus garden produce going to waste could counteract the perceived public benefits of community gardening. Tommy Thompson and Judi Loomis came up with a plan.

In the spring of 1975, Gardens for All moved its field operations from the Garden Way Associates headquarters in Charlotte to Shelburne Farms, which had become a nonprofit in 1972. 

Thompson and Loomis envisioned a modern well-equipped community cannery as a social way to can and preserve food. They secured $15,000 of food preservation equipment through a grant. Word spread quickly through local newspapers, the Burlington Farmers Market, and Gardens for All newsletters.

The Garden Way Harvest Center opened in July at the north end of the multi-storied Farm Barn at Shelburne Farms. Thompson and Loomis, along with Sky Thurber of Gardens for All, assisted gardeners, homesteaders, and local food enthusiasts in processing vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish. 

The Harvest Center housed canning and drying equipment, a cider press, and a honey extractor. The cost to use the facility was modest, 10 cents a quart and 5 cents a pint. 

The Harvest Center operated for at least three years at Shelburne Farms. An article in the November 27, 1977 Times Argus reported that 150 families community gardened at Shelburne Farms that year. Truck gardeners were allowed to lease up to two acres of land.

Operation Harvest - 1975 - Shelburne Farms

Garden Way Harvest Center - 1975 ad

Author's note: In 1976, community canning centers were established with grant support in West Rutland, Berlin, and Barton. The Bread and Law Task Force, a Montpelier-based social services nonprofit, secured $90,000 in funding from the Campaign for Human Development of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington to launch the three canning centers. As a side note, Bernie Sanders worked for the Bread and Law Task Force during the mid-1970s helping to register people for food stamps.

Gardens for All - locally and nationwide - 1975

BACG History Post #16

Gardens for All - op ed - 1975

In 1975, Gardens for All changed Tommy Thompson's job title from "director" to "director of field operations."

During the previous summer, Gardens for All began planning for a national campaign. A newspaper clipping service was hired to keep track of community garden projects across the country. GFA also put together a step by step manual for community garden coordinators, which it sold for $10.

Through a partnership with the federal Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, Thompson went on a seven-state tour in February 1975 to meet community garden organizers from across the country. He conducted seminars in Seattle, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Ann Arbor.

At the local level, community gardens in the greater Burlington area stabilized in 1975 with 23 sites. Community garden acreage at the University of Vermont expanded to meet the increased demand for plots. Chairpersons and site coordinators were appointed to handle the wave of garden registrations and to orient new gardeners.

Site Leaders Garden for All - 1975

Project Vermont Gardens - 1975

 BACG History Post #15

Vegetable Gardening Classes - Dick Raymond - 1975
By 1975, the back to the land movement in Vermont was in full swing. Participation in food co-ops, farmers markets, and community gardens increased dramatically during the first half of the decade. Baby boomers who grew up on canned foods and TV dinners shifted preferences to fresh locally grown food. The organic gardening movement questioned the rationale of chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides.

The Garden Way Living Center offered free vegetable gardening classes at South Burlington Middle School, presented by Dick Raymond. On Town Meeting Day in Montpelier, budget conscious city residents voted down several ballot items. Yet voters approved setting aside land and funds to develop community gardens. 

Against this backdrop, the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont partnered with Gardens for All and the UVM Extension Service to launch "Project Vermont Gardens" as described in the news article below. 

Episcopal Diocese Project Vermont Gardens - 1975
The Diocese, headquartered in Burlington at Rock Point, encouraged each of its Vermont parishes to sponsor a community garden. 

Gardens for All agreed to provide training and materials for coordinators. UVM Extension created a new program to train "master gardeners" to offer vegetable gardening assistance to community gardeners.

Please click the image below to enlarge the article for reading.

Project Vermont Gardens - 1975

In 1974 and 1975, the Cathedral of St. Paul hosted a large community garden off Pearl Street, adjacent to the Vermont District Court building. 

This color image of the community garden at the Cathedral of St. Paul shows the view of the garden facing west toward Battery Street and Lake Champlain, with the Cathedral to the north.

Community Garden at St. Paul's Cathedral Burlington - 1975