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Better know a gardener!

By February 28, 2021Beet 2021 03 March

By Lynn Kunstman

Master Gardener 2012

Mary Foster has been a Master Gardener since 2007 and is the chair of the Community Gardens Committee

Mary Foster with Scott Lewis from KDRV Channel 12.

for JCMGA. While Mary has long been a presenter of community classes and Winter Dreams, Summer Garden seminars, her first love is the Community Gardens project to which she has been dedicated for many years. The Rogue Valley has many of these gardens established in various towns, thanks to Mary’s dedication.

Mary became interested in community gardens in 2001, upon attending a conference in Denver on Horticultural Therapy. She saw a slide show on community gardens, was hooked, and knew she had to get one started in our area.

Mary’s husband, Abdiaziz, had a question: When Mary gets an idea, why do I always end up with a shovel in my hand? 

So, before he took up that shovel, they took a road trip in 2003 to see as many Northwest community gardens as possible. They saw nursing mamas sitting under a tree in a Eugene garden near the University of Oregon campus, comparing child rearing advice and tips on how to grow a bigger tomato. In Portland, where there were many established gardens, they learned that the city’s Parks and Recreation Department coordinated the gardens. 

In Seattle, community gardens are called P-Patches. They visited the oldest garden in the city, The Danny Woo Community Garden, which covers an acre of steep hillside. Many gardeners are Asian-American and grow unusual plants they know from their heritage.

Abdiaziz Guled, at left, at work on the Blue Heron Park Community Garden in Phoenix.

Some of those P-Patches had artistic gardens with beautiful mosaics installed by the gardeners. Some kept bees. In Pullman, Wash., Mary and Abdiaziz found Koppel Farm, a community garden created by students of Washington State University. This one included a children’s garden for the kids to play in while parents tended their plots. And just across the border in Idaho, a wonderful community garden can be found in Moscow – a green paradise in the landscape of the Palouse. 

Mary has worked tirelessly, with Abdi of course, for many years to bring community gardens to life in our valley. For those who do not know Mary, I fervently hope you now appreciate one of our many behind-the-scenes Master Gardener treasures.

She really does “Garden for Life”.