New garden brings sense of community to neighborhood

Friday, June 1, 2007 | 12:13 a.m. CDT; updated 11:44 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eight weeks ago, an empty, barren lot occupied space on St. Joseph Street. Now hundreds of green shoots spring up from the newly tilled ground.

The new garden is the result of a partnership of the Columbia Community Garden Coalition, Boone County Family Resources and People First of Boone County.

“It’s a sharing community experience,” said Mark Satterwhite, director of Life and Work Connections at Boone County Family Resources.

In the few weeks it has existed, AmeriCorps volunteer and garden coordinator Joy Amuedo said the garden has already created a sense of community among the diverse group of gardeners she and Community Garden Coalition President Karen Dwyer have recruited. Most of them have never gardened before, Amuedo said.

The gardeners have planted tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, herbs, squash, onions, okra, radishes, beans, eggplant and many other types of vegetables. At least one gardener has planted marigolds to keep bugs away from the tomatoes.

One of the garden plots is tended by Arnold Larson, a member of People First of Boone County, a self-advocacy organization for people with developmental disabilities. Larson said he learned how to garden by watching his father tend the family’s garden and was inspired to grow his own produce after watching Rachael Ray’s cooking show on Food Network.

“It’s fun,” Larson said. “It’s something I can do. It keeps me busy. I’m out here to meet members of the community.”

Larson said he has not met many members of the community, but hopes to in the near future. Meanwhile, he focuses on raising his tomatoes and bell peppers. He said he waters them twice every Wednesday and Saturday to make sure they don’t dry out.

“I promised my mom I would give her my first tomato,” Larson said.

Bill Eimer, a patron of Boone County Family Resources, is glad to have the garden program.

“It’s an accomplishment,” he said of his vegetable garden. “I get a sense of independence doing it.”

Members of the community are beginning to see the social benefits of this community garden.

MU graduate Jeff Fisher lives in an apartment across the street from the garden, and he said he sees a sense of community develop in the neighborhood as a result of this garden.

“It provides a forum for people to engage with each other, whether through gardening or walking by,” Fisher said. “It’s been a great opportunity to meet people.”

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