Finding Mentorship (and more) in Community

By August 25, 2021September 7th, 2021Faces of DUG

#26: Meet Laurel, a first-year gardener at Growasis Community Garden

“Last year, my boyfriend and I lived in the Cole neighborhood and had never gardened before.

We lived in an apartment with no outdoor space and were home all the time due to COVID. It has always been important to me to try and make our lifestyles more sustainable. As most human beings, I used to rely exclusively on grocery stores to provide everything I need to survive, but gardening was a paradigm shift for me and my boyfriend– to really see that we could grow our own food.” 

Last summer was our first season and as beginners, we both went into the experience blind.

DUG’s To-Grow Box was what got us started. It was a great learning experience. Before gardening, my boyfriend wasn’t particularly interested in eating fresh fruits and vegetables much of the time. Surprisingly, he got really into gardening and as a result, eating the food we produced. Our diets were both improved and diversified.

The different pepper and tomato varieties included in the To-Grow Box weren’t things I would’ve typically purchased before. Growing them was an impetus to learn how to cook and incorporate them into foods we wanted to eat.

Gardening was great for our relationship.

It gave us a project to work on, something that we had to do every single day that required our attention. It was exactly what we needed at that time.

The garden made us feel like a part of our community, especially at the height of isolation during the pandemic.

We felt really lucky to be at Growasis. It had a cohesive group of people, even despite the limitations of COVID. It was nice to have that in-person connection around something other than work, which is typically the only way we interact with others as adults. We learned so much during our first season. Our plot neighbors were also first-time gardeners, so we bounced ideas off each other all the time.

There was a woman at our garden, we called her ‘Miss M.’

When we first picked up our To-Grow Box, we were so excited that we immediately drove to the garden to plant our seedlings. The next day, everything was weathered and dying. Miss M swooped in and said, “I know what happened. It’s okay, we can save them!” She got on her hands and knees and helped us dig up and replant everything! I was being cautious, but she said, “No, you need to show the ground who’s boss–get in there!”

From that moment on, Miss M would give us garden tips every time we saw her.

She took us under her wing and helped us maintain our entire garden. She could tell early-on that we were struggling pretty significantly, so she inserted herself in such a welcomed, appreciated way. I can’t express how much it meant to me at the time. I didn’t ask other gardeners for help out of fear of seeming like too much of a rookie. What she did meant so much.

Our garden would’ve failed from day-one if it weren’t for her.

We could have read any number of gardening books, but there’s something different about having an experienced gardener who has lived in the neighborhood for a long time telling you what she does to make her garden healthy and successful.

It’s hard to explain without getting too sentimental. We’ve never connected with someone in that way before.

It really made all the difference for our first gardening experience. I’m so excited to make community gardening a part of my life now! 

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