BACG reaches out to the City of Burlington - 1987

 BACG History Post #59

Burlington Area Community Gardens existed as an independent nonprofit organization from 1983 through 1986. When funds ran out at the end of the 1986 season, the BACG board of directors reached out to the City of Burlington for help.

Board member Ike Isley was a physical trainer at the University of Vermont. He grew up on a 400-acre farm in North Dakota and was active civically in Burlington. Isley contacted Sid Baker, Superintendent of the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department. 

Baker's appointment as Superintendent of the Burlington Parks Department was announced in December, 1966. He previously worked as a reporter for WCAX television, covering the Burlington City Hall beat. Baker studied forestry at the University of Vermont.  

Baker was 29 when he became superintendent in 1967. He was a visionary leader who doubled the size of the Burlington Parks system, including the acquisition of Oakledge Park in 1971. A year later, Burlington Parks partnered with the nonprofit Gardens for All to establish the Cliffside Community Garden at Oakledge Park.

In 1973, a year-round recreation program was established under the management of the Burlington Parks Department. Leddy arena was built in 1974. A city charter change in 1975 created the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department. Urban forestry, which Baker had championed, also became part of the expanded city department. 

Ray Tanguay was hired in 1973 as the City's director of recreational services. He had a degree in recreational services from the University of Connecticut. Tanguay was a champion of providing a wide range of lifelong recreational activities for people of all ages and abilities. He saw a shift toward a neighborhood emphasis as "the wave of the recreational future."

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

No funds in the bank accounts - December, 1986

 BACG History Post #57

Burlington Area Community Gardens held its annual meeting on December 3, 1986. Board members present were Charlie Nardozzi, Barbara Prine, Barry Deliduka, Lisa Halvorsen, Nancy Crane, Neil Stout and Ike Isley. 

BACG's financial situation was dire. No funds remained in the checking account or savings account. Outstanding bills totaled $467.32 plus an estimated $500 water bill. Fundraising was discussed as an option, with no resolution. Negotiations were in progress with the City of Burlington to take responsibility for the community garden program. 

BACG Annual Meeting Minutes - 1986

Work and fun in the community gardens -1986

 BACG History Post #56

From May to November, a group of 22 Burlington teens, participated in the Youth Employment Garden Project. Maureen Cannon supervised the teens as they tilled, planted, hoed, and harvested vegetables from an acre of land at the north end of the Intervale Community Garden. 

The Burlington Youth Employment Program was founded by Mayor Bernie Sanders in 1982. The story below was published in the Burlington Free Press on August 15, 1986.    

Bernie Sanders and Youth Employment Garden

Youth Employment Garden article - 1986

Zucchini Festival - 1986

BACG and the Burlington Farmers Market co-sponsored the Second Annual Zucchini Festival on August 23, 1986. The event for all ages was held at City Hall Park.

From Gardens for All to the National Gardening Association -1986

 BACG History Post #55

At 180 Flynn Avenue in Burlington's South End, the nonprofit started in 1972 by Lyman Wood was evolving. Membership in the National Gardening Association, formerly Gardens for All, grew to 250,000 subscribers. NGA published a monthly glossy magazine and released a 432-page guide for growing fruits and vegetables. The story below appeared in the Burlington Free Press on March 23, 1986.

National Gardening Association's staff had expanded to 28 employees by March, 1986. 

Larry Sommers used his organizing skills and experience to help Cleveland develop a city-wide community gardening program. Vacant lots were transformed from eyesores to a force for neighborhood pride. NGA's goal was to create a community garden master plan to serve as a model for other cities.

Bruce Butterfield continued to work with the Gallup Organization to conduct the annual National Gardening Survey. The 1985-1986 survey indicated that  44% of American households were active in food and/or flower gardening.

Laura Carlsmith coordinated the production of Gardening, The Complete Guide to Growing America's Favorite Fruits and Vegetables. Carlson later worked on the NGA team that received a National Science Foundation grant to use gardening to teach hands-on science in schools.

Kit Anderson and George Thabault served as editors for the guidebook. Anderson later became editor in chief for National Gardening Magazine. Thabault went on from NGA to work in the Mayor's office at City Hall. 

BACG registers member gardeners -1986

BACG History Post #54

BACG Board members 1986The 1986 gardening season began with a newly elected board of directors. BACG's administrative assistant, Megan Humphrey, crafted a beautifully designed membership packet. The packet provided information about each garden site and the names of the site coordinators. A separate registration form for garden plots accompanied the membership packet. A total of 273 plots were listed at eight different BACG sites. 

BACG Registraion form -1988 pg. 2

BACG announcement - Spring 1984Community garden at Winooski Pool -1986