Showing posts with label 1979-1982. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1979-1982. Show all posts

Tommy Thompson's parting message - June 1982

 BACG History Post #41

Bryson H. "Tommy" Thompson was nearing the end of his time with Gardens for All. The organization's founding director devoted a decade to helping people establish community gardens.

On June 18, 1982, Thompson's parting message was published in the Burlington Free Press. He focused on the benefits of gardening and the need for land to provide gardeners with a place to grow.

Thompson described the irony of residents organizing to revitalize a rubble-strewn vacant lot in an urban neighborhood, then being dislocated from their community garden when property values rise.

The solution, Thompson reflected, was for enough people to personally witness a first-time gardener returning home with their first harvest, or a group of youngsters seeing plants bursting through the soil, when a week earlier they carefully planted tiny seeds. 

He ended with a hopeful vision: "Someday, when enough people see this joy, or experience it themselves, there just may be enough land for all."

Burlington's community gardens turn ten - 1982

 BACG History Post #40

Tuesday, March 3, 1981 was a momentous day in Burlington, Vermont. Bernie Sanders rocked the city's political establishment with a 22-vote victory over five-time incumbent mayor Gordon Paquette.

On June 17, 1981, Mayor Sanders showed his support for community gardening in Burlington with a proclamation honoring the 10-year anniversary of the food gardening initiative begun in 1972 by Gardens for All.

Sanders pledged the support of city departments and the city's Special Projects Fund to ensure the continuation and success of Burlington's community gardens.

Burlington Community Garden Program - 1982

BACG History Post #39

Burlington Community Gardens story 1982George Thabault joined the Gardens for All staff in 1982. Following in the footsteps of Tommy Thompson, Bruce Butterfield, and Larry Sommers, he took on the community garden coordinator role.

Renamed the "Burlington Community Garden Program," 25 ft. x 30 ft. garden plots were available at 11 sites.

Plot fees increased from $10 to $15 in 1982, with a $5 clean-up deposit. Fees included tilling, water, gardening classes, and a summer newsletter. An application form was instituted, with mail-in registration.

Community garden availability in and around Burlington decreased from 500 plots in 1981 to 400 plots for the 1982 season.

Gardens for All established a perennial nursery at the Intervale Community Garden the previous year. Fruit trees were planted at several community garden sites.

Gardening classes in Burlington -1982

Thabault led a series of four free gardening classes during May and June. Classes were held at the Intervale Community Garden, Fletcher Free Library, and Cathedral Square Apartments.

Gardens for All also sponsored organic gardening workshops presented by Larry Sommers and JoAnne Dennee. The workshops on intensive gardening and insect control were held at the Intervale Community Garden.

Youth garden program at Franklin Square Housing Project
Gardens for All continued to support the youth gardening program at the Franklin Square Housing Project in Burlington's New North End. The program (photo above) was led by Chittenden County 4-H, which provided seeds and gardening classes.

Gardens for All after the Garden Way Coup - 1982

 BACG History Post #38

In 1978, six Garden Way companies were combined under Garden Way, Inc. The 12 founding stockholders became equal partners in the corporation. Five stockholders worked with Garden Way Associates, based in Vermont. The other seven stockholders worked with Garden Way Manufacturing, the largest division of the corporation, based in Troy, New York. 

The stockholders elected the company's founder, Lyman Wood, as president of Garden Way, Inc. He maintained control of day-to-day operations from the corporate headquarters in Charlotte, Vermont. 

From 1979 through 1980, the New York branch of Garden Way continued to make healthy profits selling Troy-bilt roto-tillers, while the Vermont-based operations accrued a substantial loss. 

Conflicts emerged among the Garden Way partners and board members around Wood's visionary projects. The 1981 purchase of the Seaway Shopping Center in South Burlington, at a price of four million dollars, proved to be the tipping point. 

On January 28, 1982, Lyman Wood was ousted as president of Garden Way in a surprise coup. More than 20 of Garden Way's top employees in Vermont lost their jobs. The coup was engineered by a group of dissident stockholders led by Richard Denholtz, who had worked with Wood since 1960. Denholtz was elected board chair. Dean Leith, Jr. replaced Wood as president of Garden Way.

A series of three investigative newspaper stories were written by a Dan Gillmor. He described the events leading up to the Garden Way coup and the aftermath. The first story, published on February 21, 1982 in the Rutland Herald and Sunday Times Argus is reprinted below.

Gilmor graduated from the University of Vermont in 1981 with a BA in political science. His career as a noted journalist, author, and educator, which began in Vermont, spans more than 40 years. 

Lightning shakeup at Garden Way story

Times Argus story on Garden Way shakeup

After the coup, Gardens for All was notified by Garden Way's new owners that it would lose the bulk of its annual funding. The drop in GFA's corporate support was precipitous, from a half million dollars in 1982 to $36,000 of projected revenue in 1983.

To keep the nonprofit organization afloat financially, Gardens for All staffers took pay cuts of up to 50%. Growth efforts focused on GFA's national membership campaign, which had begun in 1980. Membership had reached the level of 55,000 at the end of 1981.

The Gardens for All quarterly newspaper became the principle driver for member recruitment and engagement. In 1983, the break-even goal of 150,000 members was met. By 1985, Gardens for All produced a monthly glossy magazine with a circulation to nearly 250,000 members. 

In 1982, Gardens for All began to sell gardening tools and equipment through the Gardens for All newspaper. Will Raap conceived the idea and found sources to import specialty tools and gardening supplies. 

The classified ad to the right, posted by Raap, appeared in the Burlington Free Press on December 22, 1982. The new initiative soon outgrew the space at Gardens for All. In 1983, Raap and eight others founded Gardener's Supply Company as a spin off from Gardens for All.

Gardens for All projects supported by Garden Way funding began to be pruned back in 1982. Burlington's community garden program, which had launched Gardens for All as a nonprofit enterprise ten years earlier, faced a pending transition.

Weed 'em & Reap newsletter - Fall 1981

 BACG History Post #37

In the fall of 1981, Gardens for All secured a donation of fruit trees from Stark Brothers Nursery to establish a community plant nursery at the Intervale Community Garden.

GFA's horticulturist, Charlie Nardozzi, quickly applied his knowledge and skills to support the long term sustainability of the Burlington Community Gardens Program. 

Nardozzi planned workshops to teach volunteers how to take care of the nursery trees and perennials. The plant nursery was over 5,000 square feet with permanent raised beds. Plants included small fruits and berries, herbs, perennial flowers, and food plants such as rhubarb.

The Weed 'em & Reap newsletter helped to engage Burlington's community gardeners in the new initiative to increase food production and a sense of permanence at the garden sites.

Gardens for All turns to youth gardening - 1981

 BACG History Post #36

The original Champlain Community Garden was a short walk from the Gardens for All headquarters at 180 Flynn Avenue. 

The garden site was located to the east of Champlain Elementary School near the chain link fence by the bus barns, with access from Shelburne Street. 

Lynn Ocone (photo above on right) and Larry Sommers (photo below) developed youth and community garden projects with Gardens for All.

Charlie Nardozzi (photo below on right) was hired by Gardens for All in the spring of 1981, following his graduation from UVM with a BS degree in horticulture. Nardozzi interned with Gardens for All the previous summer.

Ocone, Sommers, and Nardozzi tested a variety of hands-on gardening activities with kids during the summer of 1981, while providing a healthy project for Burlington children.

Professional black and white photos were taken in 1981 at the Champlain Community Garden. 

Several of the photos were integrated into The Youth Gardening Book, authored by Ocone. The guide for teachers, parents, and youth leaders was published by Gardens for All in March 1983. 

The Youth Gardening Book was revised and republished in 1990 as the National Gardening Association Guide to Kids' Gardening. Thousands of copies of the resource books were sold, influencing youth and children's gardening programs across the country for more than a generation.

Vermont Life Magazine story - Summer 1981

 BACG History Post #35

Vermont Life Magazine featured Gardens for All in its Summer 1981 special issue, marking the 25th anniversary of the iconic state publication.

Photos for the Gardens for All story were taken during the summer of 1980. The lead photo is the Medical Center Community Garden. The senior gardener is from the Cathedral Square Housing Project. JoAnne Dennee is photographed teaching children in the garden. Tommy Thompson is shown with the community garden map of the United States.

The article highlighted the diversity of Gardens for All programs on the local, national, and international levels. Through grants, memberships, market research, and publications, Gardens for All was on its way to raising its own funds and becoming less reliant on Garden Way's sponsorship. 

Please click the images to enlarge for reading.

Vermont Life Magazine cover Summer 1981

Gardens for All story in Vermont Life - 1981

JoAnne Dennee and Tommy Thompson - Vermont Life
Vermont Life story on community gardening - 1981
Gardens for All and Vermont Life - 1981

Author's note:  During my senior year at Syracuse University, my parents gave me a subscription to Vermont Life Magazine. I read the quarterly magazines cover to cover. 

I moved to Vergennes in July 1981 after graduating from college. The summer 1981 issue of Vermont Life, which included an insider's guide to Vermont's bests and favorites, came along with me.  - JF

Water for all community garden sites - Spring 1981

 BACG History Post #34

Water for all community garden sites - 1981
Larry Sommers achieved a key goal during his second year of coordinating community gardens in Burlington and surrounding towns. For the first time, every Gardens for All site had access to a water system. 

Fees remained at $10 for a 25 x 30 ft. garden plot. The fee included mulch and a summer newsletter. Registration was centralized through Gardens for All, rather than having prospective and returning gardeners calling the volunteer site coordinators.

Gardens for All sites 1981

bulletin board at Champlain community garden - 1981

Lynn Ocone and Larry Sommers of Gardens for All at work in the Champlain School community garden, summer 1981.

The garden site was located near the bus barns behind the Champlain Elementary School. Access to the community garden was from Shelburne Street.

Ocone and Sommers were hired by Gardens for All in 1979 to coordinate community and youth garden programs.

Gardening with Burlington Seniors - Summer 1980

 BACG History Post #33

The Cathedral Square Senior Housing Project was built in 1977 in downtown Burlington. A thriving Gardens for All community garden had previously been located at the site during 1974 and 1975. 

Megan Humphrey earned a BS degree from the University of Vermont in social work, with a concentration in gerontology. 

Humphrey was hired by Cathedral Square as a Social Worker. Along with checking on residents, she assisted with activities at the new senior housing project. One of the programs was a partnership with Gardens for All to create wheelchair accessible gardens.

Humphrey was already friends with Charlie Nardozzi, a UVM rising senior who worked with Gardens for All during the summer of 1980. Bruce Butterfield of Gardens for All provided technical support for the project. On Thursday evenings, either Nardozzi or Butterfield provided instruction on gardening techniques.

"Putting in gardens was a wonderful and satisfying project," said Humphrey. "Residents were thrilled to be able to have garden space at their new home. Charlie and Bruce were patient, knowledgeable, and we all learned a lot from them. I remember Kathleen Jamison well. She was wheelchair-bound, very enthusiastic and smart, and appreciated having container gardens that she could reach."

Author's note: Megan Humphrey spent her career working with seniors in Burlington. She is the founder and executive director of HANDS (Helping and Nurturing Diverse Seniors).

Images of Burlington's community gardens - 1980

 BACG History Post #32

Baird Community Garden photo - 1980The Baird Community Garden was accessible from Pine Street and Home Avenue. The shopping plaza off Shelburne Street is visible in the background. 

The Baird site was one the original community gardens established by Tommy Thompson in 1973. Thirty years earlier, the site was a WWII Victory Garden.

Troy-bilt rototillers are shown preparing the Baird garden plots for planting.

Medical Center Community Garden photo - 1980
The Medical Center Community Garden is located at the corner of East Avenue and Pearl Street, adjacent to the Vermont Department of Health. 

The garden site, established in 1973/1974, is the oldest continually operating community garden in Burlington.

Tommy Thompson photo at the Intervale Community Garden - 1980

Tommy Thompson of Gardens for All, founder of the community garden program, is shown raking a garden plot at the Intervale Community Garden, established in 1980.

Thompson was instrumental in negotiating the lease for the community garden site with the Burlington Electric Department.   

Gardens for All community garden sites - 1980

Gardens for All broadens its outreach - 1980

BACG History Post #31

In 1980, Gardens for All turned its attention to membership and outreach. GFA staff members developed gardening programs for senior citizens and people with disabilities, school children, and inmates at correctional centers. New program ideas were tested at community gardening sites in and around Burlington. 

Will Raap was hired by Gardens for All in 1980. He moved to Burlington from California after earning a BA degree in economics at UC Davis and a Master's degree in business and urban planning at UC Berkely. Raap oversaw outreach programs and conducted a campaign resulting in 15,000 paid members.

In a Burlington Free Press article published on August 17, 1980, Raap said that the Garden Way Company was providing 60 to 70% of the funding for Gardens for All. The goal was for Gardens for All to become self-supporting as it transitioned from local to national programming. 
Gardens for All story Burlington Free Press 1980

With an eye to global food challenges, Tommy Thompson continued his focus on developing community gardens in the Third World. Bruce Butterfield provided support for the garden program at the Chittenden Community Correctional Center and a retirement garden at the Cathedral Square senior citizens housing project. GFA staffers also worked with teachers at the Essex Junction Educational Center to develop courses centered around garden-based learning.

Author's note: JoAnne Dennee came to Vermont in 1980 with her husband Larry Sommers, who worked for Gardens for All. Dennee and Sommers were the first coordinators of the Intervale Community Garden.

Dennee graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BS degree in psychology and education. She has worked as an educator for over 40 years. Dennee is the author of a trilogy of curriculum guides for outdoor learning titled:  In the Three Sisters Garden, Exploring the Secrets of the Meadow-Thicket, and Exploring the Forest with Grandfather Tree.

A new garden coordinator with new ideas - 1980

 BACG History Post #30

Larry Sommers graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a degree in psychology and business. During the mid 1970s, he oversaw community garden development in a six-county region of New York's Hudson Valley. The program grew from one community garden to sixty gardens in six years. He became a skilled organizer helping communities to build alternative food systems.

In the summer of 1979, Sommers and his wife JoAnne Dennee traveled to Vermont to attend the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) Conference in Lyndonville. Along the way, the couple stopped at the Gardens for All headquarters in Burlington to say hello. They left a positive impression during the social visit with the GFA staff.

 "I got a call out of the blue in September," said Sommers. "Gardens for All offered to fly me from Poughkeepsie to Burlington for an interview. The president, Jack Robinson, picked me up at the airport in a Mercedez Benz."

Robinson shared with Sommers that a major position was opening with Gardens for All. The founding director, Tommy Thompson, was moving to part-time. Sommers was offered the position of community garden coordinator for Burlington and surrounding towns. He would overlap with Thompson, who was focusing on national and international community garden development.

Sommers' first priority focused on strengthening the eleven remaining Gardens for All sites. He developed a three-year plan for the community gardens to become a community-supported effort.

In a March 6, 1980 Burlington Free Press article, Sommers said: 

"In the past, I don't think that the Burlington community garden system has been a city system. One of our major goals in the beginning of the '80s is to locate and dedicate permanent community garden sites in the Burlington area."

Burlington Free Press story - 1980- Larry Sommers

The strength of community partnerships was reflected in Sommers' approach. He worked with Burlington High School shop students to produce signs and stakes for the gardens. Chittenden Community Correctional Center residents constructed bulletin boards. Improving the appearance of the garden sites was key to boosting community spirit. "I like to look at community gardens as parks," he said.

When Sommers took over coordination of the community garden program, most of the garden sites lacked access to water. Gardeners relied on rainfall and hauled water in the trunks of their cars. Sommers worked to establish water systems at the sites and to support the volunteer site coordinators. 

Declining soil fertility had become an issue at some of the older community garden sites. Sommers introduced the idea of setting up composting at garden sites and running composting workshops for gardeners. He worked with the University of Vermont to test the soil at garden sites and develop soil improvement plans.

Sommers led by example. He and his wife JoAnne Dennee served as coordinators for the new community garden site in the Intervale, which began in 1980 with 20 plots. Community garden participants were encouraged to form planning committees to assess the needs at the garden sites and to take responsibility for working together to meet those needs.

Community Gardens produce a bargain - 1980

Gardening class with Dick Raymond - 1980

Sommers continued the Gardens for All tradition of vegetable gardening classes for community gardeners. Dick Raymond served as the presenter for a free class held at Fletcher Free Library in May, 1980

Following the Burlington example - 1979

BACG History Post #29

Tommy Thompson goes to Antigua
Tommy Thompson was not one to let grass grow under his feet. After seven years of community garden organizing in Vermont and across the United States, he was ready for a new challenge.

Funded by a grant from a U.S. foundation, Thompson set off for the Caribbean on December 3, 1979. He was slated to return to the U.S. on December 20. 

Tommy Thompson in AntiguaHis purpose was to help the islanders of Antigua to establish community gardens on six acres of land obtained from the government. The grant was based on the new gardens being in production by the end of December. 

The pilot project was designed to boost nutrition and self-sufficiency, and to serve as a model for other community garden projects in the Caribbean and Central America.

Developed in partnership with the Caribbean Council, this was the first international venture for Gardens for All. As he had done from the beginnings of Gardens for All, Thompson was willing to lead the way.

Innovations and rejeuvenation - 1979

 BACG History Post #28

Tommy Thompson letter to site coordinators

Bruce Butterfield joined the Gardens for All staff in 1978.  He was a 1973 University of Vermont graduate who earned a PhD in Behavioral Psychology. 

Butterfield lived in Ferrisburgh during the 1970s and moved to Burlington in the 1980s. A true back to the land homesteader, he had a passion for gardening and research.

Tommy Thompson tapped Butterfield's gardening know-how and practical skills with equipment to support the community garden program.

In January, Thompson sent a letter to the garden site coordinators to introduce Butterfield and share his hope of developing permanent community garden sites. 

Thompson invite the coordinators to a meeting at the new GFA office in Burlington. This was the first time since 1973 that all of the site coordinators met in one place. 

Butterfield jumped into his new role. During February and March, he taught a six-week course at the Church Street Center in Burlington on "Growing Vegetables." The class met from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Mondays.

Butterfield (1949-2016) was at the beginning of a long career working for Gardens for All and its successor, the National Gardening Association. His specialty was market research. For 35 consecutive years he produced the National Gardening Survey, a comprehensive study of consumer gardening practices, trends, and product sales. 

Bruce Butterfield plows the Intervale
During 1979, Thompson and Butterfield met with officials at the Burlington Electric Department. They obtained permission to prepare a site in the Intervale, on B.E.D. land, for future use as a community garden. 

This photo of Butterfield plowing the Intervale garden site appeared in the November, 30, 1979 issue of the Burlington Free Press.

Changes at Gardens for All - 1979

 BACG History Post #27

Community Gardens Aid Your Growth
Gardens for All went through a passage in 1979. The nonprofit organization expanded its mission from cultivating the community garden movement to research, publishing, education programs and becoming a national membership organization for gardeners.

In January, Gardens for All established a new headquarters at 180 Flynn Avenue in Burlington. During the course of the year, the GFA staff grew from six to fourteen employees.

By August, Jack Robinson was elected president and treasurer of Gardens for All, with Judi Loomis as secretary. Elected as vice presidents were Tommy Thompson (community gardening), Emma-Lou Gale (projects), and Dave Schaefer (communications). 

Jack Robinson was the son of Ed and Carolyn Robinson, who were contemporaries of Lyman Wood. The Robinsons wrote the "Have More Plan," the 1947 book that helped launch the post-World War II back to the land movement.

The building at 180 Flynn Avenue provided space to house new staff and grant-funded programs. Nancy Flinn was hired by Gardens for All as director of horticultural therapy. Flinn worked with UVM and the Chittenden Community Correctional Center to develop a garden program for inmates. The garden was located off Swift Street, a quarter mile east of Shelburne Road.  

Gardens for All membership dues were $10 per year. Members received the quarterly Gardens for All magazine and a quarterly booklet on growing garden crops.

Gardens for All officers 1979
At 62, Tommy Thompson was the senior member of the Gardens for All staff. As new hires began shaping projects, media, and publications, he remained focused on community gardening. 

Thompson mentored Bruce Butterfield, who joined Gardens for All in 1978. Butterfield provided support for the twenty community gardens in Burlington and surrounding towns that Thompson had worked with since 1973. 

Tommy Thompson and visitors from Honduras

Thompson hosted several international visitors in 1979, who came to Burlington to learn about Gardens for All and the community gardening program. 

A group from Honduras discussed with Thompson the possibility of developing a cooperative gardening and nutrition program with Vermont, under a sister state program developed by the Alliance for Progress.