Community Garden Coalition Celebrates 30th Anniversary

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COLUMBIA - The Community Garden Coalition celebrated its 30th anniversary Saturday afternoon with a garden tour.

A group of about 50 people toured through five different community gardens and took part in learning activities and a scavenger hunt. Some of the topics covered over the course of the cruise included vertical gardening, tomato-staking methods, planing in containers and how to deal with bugs in the garden.

The Community Garden Coalition was formed in 1983. At this time, there were only three gardens. Today, there are 32 gardens associated with the coalition. The organization's president, Bill McKelvey, said this growth is partly because of a push for school and youth gardens.

"There is greater interest in giving children the opportunity to learn about where there food comes from, learn about how to grow fruits and vegetables, and also give them the chance to taste different types of fruits and vegetables," McKelvey said.

For some of the tour's participants, gardening has become a way of life. Master Gardener Emeritus Betty Gale Smith started gardening with her mother as a young girl. In the early 1990s, Smith joined the Community Garden Coalition. While a recent stroke has kept her from large laborious activities, she still continues to garden and volunteer for the organization.

"It's hard work but it is definitely worth it because you know you're getting the absolute freshest vegetables and it is kind of a good feeling to grow your own stuff," Smith said.

The Community Garden Coalition puts on several educational events. Up next is the Twilight Walk and Talk at the Circus-Lyons Community Garden on June 20. The focus of the event will be on pets in the garden.