grow the legacy
Les "Bing" Jackson and his wife Betty could be said to have been "hobby gardeners", but this hardly covers the extent of their love for the art of cultivation, both of their garden, and their community. Both teachers at the Sheridan High School, and involved in countless other ways, many remember the positive impact the Jackson's had on the community.
The garden began in 1972 when they purchased the property from Glen Marsh with the intent of someday building a home there. The house never materialized, but what they did build was one of the largest and most beloved flower gardens in Southwest Montana.
Originally just stone and sagebrush, the land had to be carefully developed to support the trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetable patches. They hauled in thousands of tons of top soil and developed their own compost, resulting in the wonderfully rich soil the garden still has today. Their secret garden on Mill Creek was considered one of the treasures of the Sheridan community. Bing and Betty encouraged their friends and community members to visit and enjoy the garden. Their passion was an inspiration for all.
In 2002, Betty passed away, and in the next few years the garden became more and more difficult for Bing to manage by himself. Years later, friends came together to help him reclaim a bit of what had become a jungle of weeds and brush. More people began to joined the effort, and by 2008 the informal efforts of a few friends had returned the garden to much of its former glory.
In 2009 three friends from Sheridan: Linda Day, Janet Marsh, and Paulette Hardy, had an idea. They were avid gardeners and thought that a Sheridan Community Garden project would be “just up their alley.” They approached Bing Jackson about the possibility of renting space in his garden to grow vegetables for the community. From this idea and the great generosity of Mr. Jackson the Jackson’s Community Garden was born.
With a big smile they told me they shared everything.
"Take one, leave one," they said.
"Bing was my little league baseball coach, teacher in the 7th grade, and friend and mentor since I was 9 years old. I'm giving back just a little of what Bing has given to me and our town."
After incorporating as a nonprofit, Bing donated the property to the volunteers who had worked with him over the years to keep the garden growing.
Today, the Garden has become a beautiful result of community work and effort, and is a rare oasis for the public to enjoy. It has been greatly developed with the installation of a high tunnel greenhouse to extend the growing season, a nature trail for education and enjoyment of visitors, and an extensive drip irrigation system to facilitate low-water use irrigation. We have improve access and parking, and most recently, added bathroom facilities. Today, members and volunteers of the community come together to incorporate education, sustainable organic agriculture, community involvement, and enjoyment for everyone.