The Garden Game is in Gary Miller’s blood
MIDDLEBURY — Gary Miller is a jovial man with glasses who can usually be seen donning a wide-brimmed sun hat during the summer months when he brings in his record-breaking vegetables to the Addison Independent offices. Gary is one of our most active participants in the Garden Game, the vegetable-growing competition that we do every summer, until the first frost hits in early fall.
He has lived in this area his entire life on a piece of land on Halpin Covered Bridge Road on the Middlebury/New Haven border. The Miller family has been there over 100 years and his property looks out onto his father’s property that he grew up on. You’ll always see a large smile on Gary’s face, but his eyes may get a little misty when he speaks about his late father, Amos Miller, and their shared love of gardening. He also shared a newspaper clipping from an April 1980 Addison Independent that shows Amos, also donning a flat cap, holding two large parsnips. According to the caption, Miller Sr. had brought the long, white root vegetables into our offices in order to show he had grown larger vegetables than Wendel Berno, who was pictured the previous week. That competitive streak, it seems, is in Gary Miller’s blood.
“We grew food to live off of the garden,” Gary said, explaining why growing vegetables has been so important to his family.
Given the especially cold spring we have had so far this year, which has stymied many a home gardener, Gary’s garden is not as far along as he wishes it would be. However, he smiles and in his true optimistic fashion said the weather has only been “uncooperative.” That has not stopped him, and like many home gardeners, his kitchen is full of plant starts.
MILLER AND HIS granddaughter Daisy show off a veggie from his garden.
Looking at photos of his garden at its height last year is something to behold. He has a box that resembles a hutch one might house a bunny in that he calls his “Cabbage Fort Knox,” and a “salad table” that is a raised bed where they grow their salad greens. For almost all of the garden space Gary uses raised beds.
Gary Miller was a plumber and a fitter for years. He served on the state board for plumbers and taught the trade to apprentices coming up. He takes great pride in being a tradesman, and he says those skills show in how precise his garden boxes and raised beds are laid out in a pattern with a center hexagon and surrounding boxes ultimately making a perfect circle. He promises with a smile that the dimensions are perfect.
As a Garden Gamer, Gary usually visits our office in the Marble Works over the summer at least a half dozen times. Never failing to bring with him a new record-breaking green bean or Asian eggplant, and usually with at least one of his three granddaughters in tow — Daisy, Maggie and Autumn. They have each been in at least one of his category-winning photos. Gary’s children, Gary and Meg, each have their own green thumb, and they have imparted that to their own families.
THIS IS WHERE Miller grows his record-breaking vegetables.
Gary’s joy is clear when he talks about gardening with his granddaughters and them talking to the seeds once they are covered up by soil. The little girls offer support and encouragement, even for the seedlings.
If you see Gary Miller around town wish him a “Happy Birthday!” as he just turned 70 years old on May 15. And I’m sure he will be seen a lot this summer as an active participant in our Garden Game.
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