Cultivating food and friendship

COLUMBUS, Ga. – With Easter approaching, that means the season for planting is getting close for gardeners. What used to be a vacant lot in the Winchester Neighborhood of Columbus has been turned into a community garden. Ryan and Erin Gutowski planted the idea for the garden one year ago and it took root.

“I think any neighbor you ask in our neighborhood in Winchester, they would say that their relationships even with the people living next door are better because this garden is a place where they meet and congregate and spend time.” Said Ryan Gutowski.

Over the weekend a dozen or more folks from the neighborhood got together to get the garden in shape for this year.

“We’re putting a lot of our vegetables in the ground. We’re putting in at least three or four more boxes. We’re building some trellises today. We’re planting a flower bed back in the front of the garden.” Said Ryan.

That’s where Lisa Ramsey got her hands dirty. She’s lived in Winchester Neighborhood for almost 20 years.

“When you can come here and you can pick your vegetables and go home and cook them, there’s nothing like it.” Said Linda Ramsey.

The menu’s looking good again this year.

“We’ll have zucchini. Last year we had egg plant. We’re going to bring those back this year.  We’re trying out snow peas for the first time and they’re actually coming out of the ground already. We’ve got an herb bed which is fantastic for the neighbors who enjoy cooking.” Said Ryan.

To get a good bird’s eye view of the big picture that’s going on with this garden, you have to look at what’s growing besides the plants.

“I’ve seen a lot of new friendships develop here. I’ve watched kids learn about vegetables and frogs, and I’ve seen people work together and become a team.” Said Lisa.

A few years ago, Ryan and his wife planted a church that meets in their home. The community garden is an outgrowth of that effort.

“We’re trying to bring the church back into the neighborhood.” Said Ryan.

Lisa says it’s cultivating a feeling of community, “I reconnected with a neighbor that helped raise me as a child.”

“It’s so easy to go to work, come home and go in your house and close the door. And this garden has brought us out of our houses and has reconnected us.” Said Lisa.

Ryan told me he can name 60 to 80 of his neighbors now, which would have been impossible before they planted the community garden.

The little red box you saw in the story, it’s actually called a Free Little Library, you can bring a book and take a book. It was donated by Miss Columbus.


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