Stroll now owns River Garden


BRATTLEBORO -- Strolling of the Heifers closed on the Robert H. Gibson River Garden Thursday and the agriculture and education organization now owns the Main Street building.

Strolling of the Heifers founder Orly Munzing announced the deal Friday at a press conference held at the River Garden.

"We imagine the River Garden, a few years after we assume stewardship, becoming widely known as a destination, as a place for discovery," Munzing said in a press release. "People will come here to learn about Vermont's agricultural legacy, its current agricultural economy, and its agricultural future."

Building a Better Brattleboro, the building's former owner, announced earlier this year that it would be selling the property at 153 Main St.

Three groups wanted to purchase the River Garden from BABB and the downtown business development organization elected Strolling of the Heifers as the successful bidder.

At the press conference Friday Munzing said it took a little while to get the financing in place. She said there were bumps in the road while trying to take over the $175,000 mortgage.

Strolling of the Heifers was able to secure a low interest USDA mortgage on the property.

Strolling of the Heifers board member Jack Davidson said the board was unanimous in its support of taking over the River Garden.

"It was a simple decision for us," he said. "It aligns with what is going on downtown and what we do. We could not come up with a single reason not to do it."

Munzing said Strolling of the Heifers wants to open a farm/food education center at the River Garden.

The group hopes to raise about $200,000 through gifts and grants, to upgrade the River Garden and support year-round programming, exhibits and events related to farming, local food and food systems.

Munzing said the Strolling of the Heifers hopes to rent out the space to support a sustainable business model for the non-profit organization.

She said the group wants to improve the acoustical problems in the building, install an air conditioning system, and add a commercial kitchen.

She said the group hopes to begin work on the River Garden this winter, with a grand opening planned for the annual Strolling of the Heifers parade weekend in early June.

The space will remain open to the public, Munzing said, and will eventually include a Strolling of the Heifers gift shop.

Munzing said the organization also hopes to hold events throughout the year that promote agriculture and locally produced food.

The group wants to establish a group of volunteer ambassadors to spend time in the River Garden and help tourists and local residents.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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