How did Missoula earn the nickname the Garden City?  Before the City of Missoula was established, the Missoula valley provided quality soil and growing conditions for vegetables and fruits.  Its location west of the Rocky Mountains provides warm Pacific air masses, and thus a milder climate than much of Montana.  Due to the boom in rail construction, mining, and the timber industry, the Garden City provided needed produce to locals as well as the communities of Helena, Butte, and Philipsburg.  Missoula’s position at the confluence of five valleys made the growing community a regional cross-road of north-south and east-west travel.  Trade ensured and the Missoula Mercantile was established in 1866.  Large commercial gardens were developed along the Clark Fork River using the river for irrigation.  The Hughes Gardens were established in 1909 near the eastern extent of the community.  The gardens employed around fifty area children who worked during the summer months.  The gardens relied on organic farming practices, and provided the community with fresh food until its closure in 1971 when the land was sold for commercial development as the interstate was newly constructed in the area. 

Kayde E. Kaiser | University of Montana | Geography Department