Opportunity Gardens

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COLUMBIA - You don't need to be born with a green thumb, but under the direction of mentors at Columbia's Center for Urban Agriculture, fifty low-income households will learn how to garden in no time.

Tricia Woolbright runs the Opportunity Gardens program in Columbia. This program helps low-income families set up gardens in their backyard and provides them with resources needed to start growing food. Resources include seedlings, buckets, wooden plant beds, garden design plans, plant-growing instructions and more. 

Right now, Woolbright has around fifty families under her guidance and she's looking for fifty additional households to add to her rounds. Due to the warm weather, Woolbright said she's hoping to find these families as soon as possible.

"The ground is warm enough," she said. "It's not frozen so I can start digging."

Woolbright says setting up the garden on the family's property makes gardening more convenient than traveling to a community garden.

"It's a lot harder for you to have the time, passion or interest to go out to water in the heat or pull weeds far away from your house," she said. "People say they've involved more of their neighbors and children now that it's outside their family house."

Families participating in the Opportunity Gardens program receive resources free of cost for a three-year time period. Upon graduation of the program, they are encouraged to maintain their green spaces.

Erin King is one of 720 participants who have grown Opportunity Gardens. She currently works as CCUA's freelance designer and said her garden has provided financial and health benefits.

"I was more creative in figuring out what I could throw together that I already had in the house, so that definitely contributed to saving money," she said. "Also, I was ensuring myself that I was eating healthier."

King said she had help growing radishes, carrots, tomatoes, kale and other greens in her Opportunity Garden. She said learning how to garden has given her confidence.

"It's given me reasons to get out of bed in the morning when I don't have anything specific that I need to do that day," King said.

Applications for households interested in growing Opportunity Gardens can be found on the CCUA website.