Gardens, farms, ranches; all of these have their place in the annals of human history and are still valuable industries, both locally and nationally.
Not so long ago, small farms and gardens were the backbone of survival for Ozarkians. A food garden bears to a gardener a measure of independence. Gardening is both utilitarian and art; a pastime that teaches the wisdom of preparation and patience.
Not to mention, there is nothing like fresh produce, even in the food-saturated world that we live in. A person would be hard pressed to convince anyone that a store bought tomato, picked when it’s still green and shipped from one of the four corners of the earth, ripening on the way to our local supermarket, could ever compare with a fat, juicy, vine-ripened tomato.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the space and resources to work the land. That’s why community gardens have become commonplace around the country.
There’s one right here in Salem. The garden consists of 35, 4’ foot x 20 foot plots and two wheelchair-accessible plots. Salemites can get one of these plots for free and a second plot for $10. Garden managers Charlie Grimm and Thom Haines say the garden has had tremendous support from the community over the years and they hope people will continue to utilize it. All of the necessary tools to keep a garden are available in a locked shed adjacent to the garden. Gardeners are provided with the combination to the lock after signing the Salem Community Garden rules and contract.
“This is an opportunity for people who want a garden, but don’t have a lot of space, to be able to do that,” said Haines, who said he has been involved with the garden for at least a decade.
“The garden started in 2009,” said Grimm. At that time it was founded as part of something called the healthy lifestyle initiative and is now sponsored by Dent County University of Missouri Extension and hosted by Salem United Methodist Church.
“The vision is to get more people to utilize the gardens,” said Grimm. “You’ve got fresh air, sunshine and you’re able to grow vegetables or flowers.”
According to Haines another big part of the garden is, “To give people a chance to grow fresh produce without herbicides and pesticides.”
According to Grimm, anyone who wants to donate compost is appreciated. “We can put it in the compost pile over there,” he said, gesturing to the four containers located on the far side of the garden. And for the time being, gardeners are welcome to utilize some of the broccoli plants that someone donated to the extension office. Grimm and Haines expressed that they are extremely grateful to everyone who has donated and supported the garden.
Haines did want to express that in the past there has been some misunderstanding surrounding what a community garden really means.
“People sometimes think that it means anyone can come and take what they want,” he said.
“It’s a space for each person to come and work,” said Grimm. “No one should be messing with anyone else's garden plot.”
There’s still several plots left and it’s that time of year for putting seeds in the ground.
Any resident interested in signing up for an individual garden plot at no cost or volunteering their time to help at the garden should contact Sarah Hultine Massengale at Dent County Extension, 729-3196 or contact Master Gardener Charlie Grimm directly at (573) 368-9902.