Garden Grows Food and Friendships
SEDALIA - A psychologist and pastor are working together in a garden they created, in hopes it will create racial ties in the community.
Only a handful of gardeners gather in the garden on Thursday evenings but Reverend W.T. Morris, the pastor providing the land for the garden, hopes more will get involved.
"This is our first year at this and so we're just getting started," Morris said.
While the group generally hopes to learn about gardening and to have fun doing it, they're also hoping it will attract people from both sides of Sedalia.
"If I can get everybody to come together and work in the garden that's one thing that I think will bring about unity," Morris said, "That's what we really need, more than anything. As I think about unity, when you talk with people and when you have something in common you don't tend to fight and argue with one another."
While the pastor offered up his land for the garden, he said Margaret Harlan, a psychologist in Sedalia, offered up the idea.
"I thought to myself, aren't we supposed to be integrated and then I realized, we weren't," Harlan said, "Then I began to think, what can I do to get whites and blacks talking together, that's when I thought about having a friendship garden."
As with many other small communities, with minority populations, many in the group said Sedalia has a history of racism and segregation. Several in the group agreed the railroad tracks, which run through the center of Sedalia, were often at the center of the problem - both figuratively and literally.
Noah Poole, one of those participating in the garden, said the railroad tracks separate the south side of town from the north side. Poole said whites often live on the south side and blacks, as well as other minorities, often live on the north side.
"It's been that way ever since I can remember," Poole said.
Poole, a black man, said he remembers when it was dangerous for blacks to cross the tracks (from the north side to the south side) after dark. Poole once got into a fight when returning from work late one evening when he was young, simply because he was the wrong color, on the wrong side of the rails.
Things have gotten a lot better in Sedalia since then, Poole said, but the town is still separated and he's hoping the garden, located on the north side of Sedalia, will encourage those from the south side to cross the tracks, if for nothing else than to do a little gardening and to create a few friendships.
"The thing we're going to have to work for is to tear down that mountain called the railroad tracks," Poole said.
Not everyone thinks Sedalia's racial relations are as bad as Poole suggests.
"I don't get the sense that there's a division in our community but you know people kind of get used to doing their own thing and I think that we could expand our boundaries a little bit," Wanda Monsees, a new garden participant, said.
Monsees, a white woman who lives on the north side of the tracks, said she's participating in the garden because she wants to get more involved in her ward. Monsees is also a city council member. Others, like Monsees, working in the garden have other reasons for participating, than what the Harlans have in mind, some just want the opportunity to learn how to garden. No matter the reason for those getting involved, the Harlans and Morris think it's still bringing people together.
"I think it's the easy way for people to really get acquainted, in a relaxed way, is to work together on something," Jerry Harlan said.
Reverend W.T. Morris said that while gardening is slowing down for winter, the group plans to get the garden back up and growing in the spring. He encourages everyone in Sedalia to get involved. For more information, you can contact Morris: (660) 826-2924 or the Harlans: (660) 827-4449. You can also attend the garden meetings every Thursday evening at 6 near the True Vine Church of God in Christ located at 600 N. Moniteau Avenue.
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