When COVID-19 hit our community and shut down many social outlets andplaces to gather, Vicki became lonely and was yearning to be outside and in agarden. A friend suggested that she get involved with The Open Door’s Garden to Table program. Vicki connected with program manager Alpa, and soon after, plot 12 at Valley Natural Foods (TOD’s newest garden site) became Vicki’s.
Vicki grew up gardening with her family in Wisconsin. She was eager to garden this spring and “needed to be in the dirt.” Vicki quickly went from maintaining one garden plot to many more. “I decided plot 12 wasn’t big enough for me, so Alpa gave me plot 28 and in June gave me 23 and then she started to give me more spots.” Vicki planted tomatoes, peppers, sunflower seeds for pollinators and birds, swiss chard, beets, green beans, eggplant and squash and took care of the strawberry patch at plot 13, nurturing it along.
“I am unemployed, and my economic situation is not the greatest right now,” says Vicki. “[Gardening] kind of saved my life during COVID.”
In addition to providing healthy food for herself, she was happy to donate half of her squash harvest to The Open Door and share some with friends who are having troubles.
When asked how The Open Door supports her, Vicki got choked up. “Garden to Table supports me in so many ways. I am learning about so much – (that knowledge) feeds a lot. I love cooking, so I have made a lot of food for my sweetheart who has had a very tough summer financially. I have been able to make food for people in need from the produce from my garden.”
Vicki has also enjoyed the community aspect of Garden to Table. “When I was in my garden this summer, I was able to tell Valley Natural patrons the story of The Open Door and I kind of became an advocate for the program. I was planting the seeds in the people.” Vicki also worked with Shelley, Garden to Table’s Volunteer Master Gardener, to recruit pickers to gather pears from pear trees. Vicki made friends at her garden site, creating a deeper connection with other gardeners. “My little granddaughter and my son came and had lunch in my garden space and my granddaughter helped me garden. It was a great place to meet up with friends and families. Such a wonderful and nurturing space for me to have this year. Thank you.”
Vicki says her experience with Garden to Table showed her that food support can be surprisingly nutritious. “My previous perception of a food shelf was that it served people in deep need, but it didn’t give them healthy food. It gave them cans and boxes of mac and cheese and maybe bags of rice but not a well-balanced healthy diet with healthy fresh fruits and vegetables. When I got to be in the experience, and I got to produce fresh foods and bring it to the pantry, I felt like I was nurturing the whole human body. I appreciate health and well-being and I got a sense that The Open Door cares for the whole human body in the work of the organization.”
Vicki is already preparing for the next growing season. She has covered plots 10 and 23 with leaves to ready for winter. She has taken soil samples home to understand what is in the soil so that she can prepare for a bountiful garden in the next growing season.
When she isn’t gardening, Vicki is working on her start-up nonprofit to promote equitable environmental, economic, climate and community resilience. She is passionate about regenerative futures and has worked with more than 50 cities within the metro area. “Even though we have food insecurity, and it is increasing, it doesn’t have to be,” she says. “We can choose to create a community in a different way, so everyone has an abundance supply of food. We just have to look at how our systems are set up and be courageous enough to change them so that we can all enjoy an abundant, healthy diet.”