Bartram’s Garden is a world treasure and a must-see for curious audiences of all ages.
A unique cultural landscape on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Bartram’s Garden is best known as the home, farm, and garden of John Bartram, America’s first naturalist botanist and plant explorer. John Bartram, inspired by nature and the love of plants, dedicated his life to the better understanding of the world around him and shared his knowledge with his neighbors and friends as well as an international community of scientists, botanists, and curious plant collectors. The Bartram family cultivated the garden and farmlands, establishing one of the country’s first and largest commercial nurseries by 1850. In the years that followed, an extraordinary chain of stewardship grew and continues today in a partnership between the John Bartram Association and the City of Philadelphia. The preservation of the Garden is the primary mission of its stewards, and through the years, important steps have been taken to protect the historic buildings and enhance the Bartram’s singular garden for the benefit of future generations.
In 2008, the Board of the John Bartram Association undertook a strategic planning process based on the Drucker Organizational Self Assessment Method. This pioneering process invites nonprofits to “achieve a bottom line of changing lives and demonstrating organizational commitment and competence in a highly demanding and challenging environment.” The process, which is mostly outward looking, was informed by input from the community, stakeholders, and public and private partners.
The end result was a new vision for Bartram’s Garden to lead the organization into a sustainable future. Transitioning away from a passive “show and tell” site, the revitalized Garden is pictured as a place for active community use and enjoyment.
To achieve our compelling and dynamic vision by 2018, the organization has established very specific goals and objectives. We began by identifying priorities for Phase One (2009 – 2013) implementation:
- Protect and enhance the historic and living collections including the 1728 Bartram House and the Historic Garden.
- Engage audiences of all ages through improved visitor services, increasing access and extended outreach into the community.
- Build organizational sustainability through best practices and strengthening capacity to lead and change lives.
As a result of setting clear priorities and setting ourselves the highest bar possible, we have made significant progress toward our vision over the past three years. The highlights include:
- Repurposing of existing buildings to create a new centralized visitor welcome center including a new garden shop.
- Federally funded design and construction of a regional recreational bicycle and pedestrian trail (Schuylkill River Trail)
- New entrance, new parking areas and improved lighting and signage.
- Federally funded restoration and improvement to existing freshwater tidal wetlands.
- Increased earned income by 21%.
- Increased membership by 28%
Looking ahead, we still have a number of objectives to meet by 2013. These include:
- Creating a working farm and green resource center in partnership with PHS and the Urban Nutrition Initiative at Penn.
- Completing the plans and beginning a phased restoration of the Historic Garden.
- Undertaking phased conservation of the 1728 Bartram House.
While meeting these goals, the Board and Staff of the organization will continue to develop the plans and goals toward the Vision 2018.