Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Capstone Final Project: DIggin' in the Dirt

For my final capstone project I created an essay about gardening around Columbia, Mo. I've always had an interest in gardening, and I love flowers, but I'm terrible about killing them. So I wanted to meet some people who had great success about it. Some subjects turned out to be harder to get a hold of, and a very rainy spring also made for a hard time shooting. The essay seems to have ended up focusing a little more on the community gardens that are becoming quite popular around Columbia. I had the best access there and some of my best images came from these shoots. When it came time to edit, I had a hard time fitting the flower, beauty aspect into my pictures. So I added an article pretty late in the project to cover a little more of that part. I wish I could have gotten some better interviews, but I ran out of time since I'd decided to add it so late in the process. I'm happy with what I ended up with, even though it wasn't exactly what I'd started out hoping to get. Looking back, doing a story would have been a little easier, since I have no experience doing an essay. I had a fun time with the variety though. It was a challenge to keep some sort of cohesion throughout the photos, and I talked to several different classmates to help with my editing and the flow of the photos. Overall, I learned a lot from the experience and have some images I'm really happy with.

 Diggin' in the Dirt

After one of the wettest winters Columbia residents have seen in recent years, residents are finally able to get outdoors and participate in a variety of gardening activities around the city. For citizens interested in growing their own produce, the Community Garden Coalition offers people a place to grow their plants and the chance to learn a little more about gardening. It’s a great way to get to know neighbors, since many of the gardens are in neighborhoods. In addition, it can help cut grocery costs on expensive produce, especially since food costs commonly rise with gas prices.

Each of the eleven community gardens is set up a little differently, but many of them offer individual plots as well as some communal space to grow additional produce. The gardeners from the Benton-Stephens community garden added a large rectangular bed for growing corn, since it needs to be grown in clumps for proper pollination, said garden coordinator Kathy Doisy. The garden also has an established herb plot, which is cared for by all the members collectively. Doisy said in past years the entire garden has been communal, but it was hard to maintain, since everyone tried to rely on someone else to work on the garden, which meant that sometimes things did not get done. As a result, this year the garden structure switched to individual plots so people would stay motivated to take care of their own area.

The newest addition to the coalition is the garden located by the Health Department on Worley Street. The gardeners held their first workday on Sat., April 23. Plots were marked and gardeners of all ages hauled rich, dark compost to fill the beds about 3 inches deep, all the while chatting and getting to know each other. The following week, the group was back in action, this time tilling the beds to mix the compost and existing soil. Now it’s up to the gardeners to plant their favorite fruits and vegetables in their chosen plot. Like the garden in the Benton-Stephens neighborhood, this garden will have communal space, but instead they will be growing fruit trees and berries.

For garden lovers who can’t commit to having their own plot, or for those who are just starting to learn about gardening and how to best grow their food, the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture offers both workshops and hands-on learning experience.

Workshops vary depending on the season, and lists of available workshops are available on the organization’s website. For others just looking to help out, the Urban Farm, located at 1209 East Smith Street, has volunteer workdays three days a week, during which people can come help out and gain a little insight into the process of growing food in an urban environment, usually with limited space.
For some Columbia residents, the garden provides a social outlet, allowing them to network, learn more about maintaining a healthy garden and also how to use that garden to help improve the environment.

The Columbia Gardening Club, founded in July 1919, has 64 members, and meets once a month during the day. Karen Blackmore, the president of the club, said members participate in activities such as planting flowers at the historical society and nursing homes, as well as competing in flower shows such as Art in Bloom.

The Discovery Garden Club is much newer, having just been established in September 2010. They also hold monthly meetings, but they meet in the evening. They also have educational presentations at their meetings and are active around the city.

Both groups came together to put on the annual Columbia Gardening Club Flower Sale on Sat., April 30. Members of the gardening clubs divide plants from their own yards, and bring them to the Trinity Presbyterian Church, where the plants are then sold to the public. Blackmore said people like to buy their plants there because then they know that these types of plants can grow and thrive in central Missouri. The Discovery Garden Club held a bake sale to raise money for their group during the plant sale. Members brought in colorful homemade flower cookies, cakes, pies, and other snacks to sell. This is the main fundraising event for both groups, who use the money to operate throughout the year.

With so many opportunities to buy flowers at hardware stores such as Lowe’s and Ace Hardware, as well as from local nurseries such as Strawberry Hill Farms, located just south of town, it’s hard to miss the gardening fever that seems to be springing up all over Columbia. There are many great chances to get involved, so go out there and get your hands a little dirty.

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