8 Goes Green: Local Gardeners Grow for Community

6 years 11 months 1 week ago Wednesday, June 12 2013 Jun 12, 2013 Wednesday, June 12, 2013 1:05:00 PM CDT June 12, 2013 in 8 Goes Green
By: Tom Casselman

COLUMBIA - A shared garden is allowing more people to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables grown right in the city.

At the United4Health Community Garden, Columbia residents can feel free to explore new methods and plants for gardening. It also provides a nutritional boost, as having fresh produce increases the likelihood of eating healthily.

"There is a huge push for fresh fruits and vegetables. Half your plate is supposed to be fruits and vegetables," said Maureen Coy, the health educator for Columbia and Boone County Public Health and Human Services.

And there is a ton of variety in what's being grown.

"Tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, some broccoli, herbs; I have blueberry plants, blackberry plants, just a little bit of everything," said Ben Geyer, a new member to the gardening community.

Fruits and vegetables aren't the only things in variety at the garden. 

"They furnish straw and they furnish peat moss and compost and wood chips, and that's more extreme than I would have thought about doing!" said Jean Newcomb, a Columbia resident and lifelong gardener. 

There are a myriad of tools as well, such as spades, shovels, rakes, hoes, pots, weedwhackers and a lawnmower available for the gardeners to use. There are two different water sources for gardeners to use as well; a hydrant pump and a rain barrel system.

While the garden has attracted long-time gardeners like Newcomb, it has garnered interest from younger members of the community as well.

"I read a book about a vegan athlete and got really stoked on health. I read this in January, and January is really the worst time to garden. So this spring I said, 'I'm going to garden,' and so I took over my backyard and now I'm coming here," Geyer, 16, said. 

Coy said the success of the garden can't be attributed to just one source. 

"We had our shed built by Job Point, we had our raised beds made by Columbia's Public [Schools]'s Career Center. We have worked with the Center of Urban Agriculture, we work with [Columbia] Public Works in our rain barrels," said Coy. 

The newest addition to the Community Garden is a plot dedicated to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

"Some city employees wanted to see more fresh produce donated to low-income families," Coy said. "One of the things we know is that low-income people really have a hard time being able to afford fresh, local produce."

The produce is grown by the city workers who volunteer at the plot, and the produce is then given to the attendants of work-nutrition classes provided by the Public Health and Human Services Department. This helps give low-income individuals and families a little bit of extra nutrition. Coy said that while she doesn't know how much food they have donated in the past, the Columbia and Boone County Public Health and Human Services is acquiring a scale to measure how much food they are able to grow for others. 

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