Strolling of the Heifers Acquires River Garden, Announces Plans for Farm/Food Education Center

In a real estate transaction completed on Thursday, Nov. 14, Strolling of the Heifers has acquired the Robert H. Gibson River Garden property on Main Street in downtown Brattleboro.

The building was sold by Building a Better Brattleboro, the organization that built it in 2001 and has operated it since then.

Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers, announced that Strolling of the Heifers would launch a Farm/Food Education Center at the River Garden, with year-round programming, exhibits and events related to farming, local food and food systems.

The Stroll’s vision for the River Garden, Munzing said, is for it to be the focal point of the Brattleboro region’s local foods economy, while continuing to serve multiple public purposes, being open on an daily basis, and available on a rental basis for community events and private functions as it has in the past.

In a statement, Strolling of the Heifers outlined its vision for 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. People will come here to learn about Vermont’s agricultural legacy, its current agricultural economy, and its agricultural future. A visit to the River Garden will tell people how the local food system in our region works: what farmers produce; how it is aggregated and distributed; what kinds of businesses process and add value to local farm products; where our local farm and food products are distributed, sold and consumed; how to use more local food at home, in restaurants and institutional kitchens; and how farmers, consumers and regions benefit when they actively strengthen local food networks. Visitors will encounter the story of a rich legacy, a set of bright opportunities, and a promising future of sustainable enterprises. 

“And, in a year-round cycle of programs and events, many people from all walks of life can come to the River Garden learn more about food, cooking and nutrition; to enjoy films, lectures, farm-to-Main Street meals and tastings; to take part in workshops, classes and courses; and to attend a wide variety of other events.” To accomplish this, the River Garden will:

• Feature both permanent and changing exhibits relating to local farms and food, including art exhibits

• Host classes, lectures and meetings focused on local food and healthy living

Present information on sustainable living and resilient communities through intergenerational, multi-disciplinary dialogues and idea exchanges

Be the site of Farm-to-Main Street events: Strolling of the Heifers farm-to-table meals, and other new kinds of events in the Stroll’s list of programs

Continue to host the Winter Farmers market organized by Post Oil Solutions

Provide space for events and activities of Vermont Technical College and Community College of Vermont that may not fit in their space at the Brooks House

Present the community with art, music, dance and dramatic events. 

In addition, the River Garden’s continuing role as a public resource will include:

Continuation and enhancement of its function as a Waypoint Center with tourist information
Availability of public restrooms and a place for visitors to rest and relax
Space rentals to a wide variety of organizations for events of all kinds
Availability for private functions such as weddings, parties or business events

And, at the River Garden you will find:

The principal office of Strolling of the Heifers
The “Stroll Store” — selling Stroll merchandise, local farm products, and perhaps including a small café serving coffee and other refreshments 

The Stroll’s vision will not come to pass without some essential changes to the building. The organization’s plans includes the following changes: 

Installation of a kitchen to allow food preparation and catering for various events as well as cooking classes and demonstration 
Mitigation of the acoustical problems of the space to facilitate more live entertainment events
Installation of measures to mitigate summer heat gain, as well as air-conditioning to manage summer temperatures inside the building, together with energy-saving improvements to reduce winter heating expenses.
Construction or adaptation of space to use as Strolling of the Heifers organizational offices and a small “Stroll Store.”

Comments | 5

  • Congratulations

    Congrats on the deal.

    I’m hoping this is helpful to the Stroll. It looks like a well-rounded plan, and maybe it will help lead to more of the Stroll activities staying downtown on Main Street during the Heifer weekend, too.

    I know it is helpful for BaBB to be able to focus on all of downtown without the building ownership and upkeep.

    Has anyone had any thoughts about the deck in the back? I’m assuming it stays as is… ?

    • The Deck

      Hi Chris, the deck in back stays as is. As some may recall, there was originally a plan to have that deck connect to the river via a walkway over the tracks and stairs down — hence “River Garden”. That and a few other things were axed to stay within the construction budget (there was supposed to be a slate floor, and the atrium was supposed to go all the way to the back of the building instead of stopping where it does.

      We’re going to put that river stairway on our long-term wish list, but first priorities will be energy efficiencies, air conditioning, kitchen and other items.

  • Good News (and Good Luck!)

    Best I’ve heard in a long time.

  • These plans all sound so

    These plans all sound so wonderful! Very happy that your organization was able to take over the River Garden space – it’s such an asset to the town. This is the best thing to happen to Brattleboro for awhile. Good luck with all of this.

  • Great News

    Wow, it’s everything we wanted and a little bit more. I look forward to a fruitful arrangement of good things, as most of it’s already happenng in some form. I hope it works out for everyone.

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