SIDNEY — To achieve the official title of Master Gardener, one has to go through a 10-week course consisting of 50 hours of class time and 50 hours of volunteer work. Volunteers don’t need to be a Master Gardener to help at the Agape People’s Garden. Even the most inexperienced of gardeners can make a difference at the People’s Garden. For $10, anyone can rent a bed and receive all the necessary supplies to start growing food for a good cause coordinated by the Master Gardeners.
Saturday, Master Gardeners and volunteers worked at the People’s Garden during the biggest wrokday of the season for the garden.
The People’s Garden was started in 2013 as a way to provide fresh produce to those in need while also engaging the community. Conelia Dixon, head coordinator at the People’s Garden, has been there since the start. She started volunteering at Agape at the suggestion of her son. She was beginning her Master Gardener training at the time and was wanting to work outside.
“It all came together at the same time,” she said.
The garden started with just four raised beds and expanded exponentially from there. They grow produce and herbs as well as flowers to attract pollinators.
“We do everything organically. We use no chemicals,” Dixon said.
Today, the four beds have turned into more than 50. There’s also the recently installed building known as the Learning Center. This year it’s being wired for electricity and will soon be used to hold classes where volunteers can hone their gardening skills. There’s even more plans for the future of the garden, with the possibility of using the space for meetings or having yoga in the garden. There’s even discussion of getting live music.
Volunteers worked in warmth of the early morning sun Saturday to replace some of the older wooden beds with new designs featuring corrugated metal sides. The metal was a donation, as was the wood, the soil, the seeds and everything else at the People’s Garden. Agape makes use of all the donations that they receive. They used donated PVC pipe and chicken wire to create cages to keep deer and groundhogs away from the food. Nothing that’s donated goes to waste.
Volunteers come to the People’s Garden for a variety of reasons.
“I like seeing things grow. I like to help people out,” said Master Gardener Mark Hipple. “I like to share my knowledge on plant defense,” he adds. He’s been helping out at the garden for three years and designed several of the cages to keep out critters along with the metal-sided beds.
Volunteer Terry Richardson said, “It’s really rewarding to be able to participate and make a difference.”
It’s his fifth year at the pantry. Overall, they all emphasize the community effort that brings them together for a good cause.
The People’s Garden is a way to volunteer a morning’s work to make a difference. There’s a Saturday work day at the Agape Community Garden every month, with the next one being on June 15 from 9 a.m. until noon. Anyone interested in renting a bed or volunteering around the garden can contact Dixon at 937-726-9525. All donations are welcome, though they are currently in need of soil.
The writer is a summer intern with the Sidney Daily News.