The Victory Garden — a concept during both world wars — meant people would grow their own fruits and vegetables on community plots.
That same idea gave the start to the Community Garden Coalition in Columbia in 1983. This nonprofit provides equipment and support to those who want to establish community or neighborhood gardens throughout Columbia.
The Community Garden Coalition is one of the myriad nonprofits with a smaller request in the thousands rather than tens of thousands of dollars. The money raised through CoMoGives — a goal of $6,000 this year for the coalition — provides more supplies and possibly construction of raised beds for gardeners with disabilities.
Among other community nonprofits with smaller fundraisers is Wontanara, seeking $5,000, to cover expenses for guest artists and its rehearsal space. Wontanara showcases the performing arts of Africa, including various styles of dance and percussion.
Camp Hickory Hill, a children’s camp focused on diabetes education, seeks $3,500 through CoMoGives. The money is used to buy supplies and, in some cases, even helps cover the fee for campers.
The Tribune contacted Wontanara and Camp Hickory Hill for more information about their respective CoMoGives campaigns, but did not hear back by time of publication.
Many of the nonprofits in the CoMoGives campaign operate on budgets of less than $25,000 annually. This includes the Community Garden Coalition, which has an annual budget of less than $20,000, said Kathy Doisy, board president of the 100% volunteer organization.
Supporters should expect a year-in-review email or traditional mail message from Doisy over Thanksgiving week, as well as a few over the CoMoGives monthlong campaign. For those that donate, their name is pulled from the donors list, so they do not keep receiving giving requests during the campaign, Doisy said.
“Donations through CoMoGives provide a significant portion of (our budget). All of the money that we raise goes directly to helping Boone County residents grow their own food,” she said, adding the coalition also has received grants from Walmart to provide garden tools best suited for those who are disabled.
The gardens “stabilize neighborhoods and improve the environment,” Doisy added.
Getting a garden started
Neighborhoods and other organizations can set up group gardens. Neigborhood gardens generally are on public land, where the Community Garden Coalition has an agreement with the city to have garden space on the land, such as the one at Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services. There are examples of raised beds at this site.
If a group or neighbors want to establish a garden, the Community Garden Coalition can help get one going, but it is up to the original group to keep the garden going.
“We provide seeds, plants, soil, compost, straw, raised beds, tools, tillers, mowing equipment, know-how. Just a wide variety of things to get people together to garden,” Doisy said, adding some raised funds also go toward operational costs, such as paying water bills or insurance.
“We help every way that we can,” Doisy said, adding for those without as much gardening knowledge there are guides and videos on the coalition website, including on canning and food preservation. There is a preference for gardeners to grow organically, without chemicals.
A variety of backgrounds; focus still on low-income individuals, families
People who have garden plots at either the group or neighborhood gardens come from a variety of backgrounds and financial means. Still more than half of those who have a plot are considered low-income earners, Doisy said.
The coalition still puts its focus on lower-income individuals, the elderly, people with disabilities, children, and others who might not be able to have a garden on their own.
“It is our belief that the opportunity to garden helps people stretch their food dollar and improve their nutritional intake,” the coalition notes on its website. “Community gardens also improve the overall quality of life in neighborhoods by encouraging self-sufficiency and a sense of community among participants.”
Humanitarian issues throughout the world also means Columbia is welcoming many refugees, many of whom now have gardens.
“They are growing foods and medicines they would not be able to get otherwise. It brings some of their culture with them,” Doisy said. “I learn something every day in these gardens where they are bringing in crops I have never seen before.”
While garden plots can be for families to provide what they need, there are groups who are growing specifically to provide fresh produce to the Food Bank of Central and Northeastern Missouri for distribution in the community, she added.
Another benefit of having a neighborhood garden is it offers a chance for people to meet and learn about their neighbors, Doisy said.
Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at [email protected] or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Subscribe to support vital local journalism.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: The CoMoGives campaign starts soon. Here are a few nonprofits seeking support.