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Garner Grows Community Garden: Share The Work, Share The Harvest
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Hi there, I am Juliette “Jette” Rouse, and I joined Garner Grows Community Garden one year ago. I am the last person you would expect to be a member of a community garden! I am sure most of you have heard the term “Green Thumb”, and you might think it is a requirement for joining a community garden. I am here to prove that it’s not.

Not only do I not know anything about gardening, but I never had any interest in learning. Even if I had been interested in gardening, my declining health and resulting disabilities over the years would have made it impossible for me to maintain my own personal garden. The few plants that ended up in my home or yard, usually gifts from well-meaning friends, inevitably perished under my care. I dubbed myself as a “black thumb” and told friends and family I was a hopeless case.

Thanks to my complete lack of interest in gardening, when my stepmother Pam Bonilla first got involved with Garner Grows Community Garden over a decade ago, I didn’t pay much attention. But little by little the Garner Grows community began to win over my entire family. Soon my father Carlos was lending his handyman skills to build and repair things for the garden. My youngest sibling, Layla Bonilla developed an interest in things like permaculture, homesteading and small animal care, so their participation in Garner Grows was inevitable! The name “Garner Grows” became a household phrase, with 3 of our 5 family members firmly devoted to the garden, and the rest of us reaping benefits as well.

Our entire household benefitted from the bountiful harvests throughout the year. I developed a new appreciation for freshly grown produce, not to mention the money saved by not having to purchase it from a store! We are a family that loves to cook (and eat!), so we all enjoyed coming together to find creative new ways to use our bounty of food.

It turns out, many of the Garner Grows members are also families that love to cook, so they have frequent “potluck” social events throughout the year, where household members come together to share favorite recipes and get to know one another. I’m an introvert with social anxiety, so the “community” part of Garner Grows intimidated me at first, but the friendly and eclectic group of families at Garner Grows made me feel comfortable in no time. After accompanying my family to some of these events, and to other public events, like when they Petitioned the Town for a Garden Plot, the Garner Grows community began to feel like home to me, so I wished I had more to offer.

That opportunity came in early 2022 when I heard that Garner Grows was interested in having someone take over responsibility for the website. I jumped at the chance to get involved and give something back to the community. I even started attending workdays, and was pleasantly surprised to find that there are plenty of tasks to go around that are within my limited abilities. This gave me an excuse every week to spend time outside in the fresh air, even if all I did was sit in a chair and make the labels, or help pot a few seedlings. It’s been a year since I officially joined Garner Grows as a member and I can honestly say that both my physical and mental health have been improved by the experience!

The funny thing is… I still consider myself a black thumb! And I still don’t really have any interest in learning all the ins and outs of gardening… I just follow directions to complete any task within my abilities. And that’s okay, because that is kind of the point of Garner Grows Community Garden. The motto “Share the Work, Share the Harvest” means that you don’t have to do it all; the community is there to help you! And for those who do want to learn about Gardening, Garner Grows is a great resource because along with the hands-on experience, our leaders and other members are happy to share their knowledge. Who knows, maybe some of that knowledge will sink in, even with someone like me!

Because I never would have pictured myself joining a community garden, I wanted to share my perspective with people, in the hopes that it will encourage them to give it a try even if they don’t think gardening is their thing. So I will be starting a new blog series here at Garner Grows called “Gardening with a ‘Jette’ Black Thumb”, where I will give periodic updates on our weekly workdays and other public events from my point of view. I hope you will join me on my reluctantly started, but pleasantly enjoyable journey into the world of gardening!

This post is part of a series of blogs called:

My name is Jette, and I am the last person you would expect to join a community garden! Not only do I have a ‘black thumb’, but I am physically disabled and I am introvert who suffers from social anxiety. So how did Garner Grows become such a big part of my life? This blog series will follow along on my unlikely journey and show community gardening from my unique (and completely unskilled) perspective.