CCUA is about more than just gardening

An entry from Peace Corps fellow Ally Junker

Ally Junker at Kilgore's Community Garden.

Ally Junker at Kilgore’s Community Garden.

My favorite part about volunteering at CCUA is the wealth of experiences I have had to engage with the community and meet so many people. As a Peace Corps Paul D. Coverdell Fellow at the University of Missouri, I am required to serve 10 hours a week with a community organization. I say requirement but this aspect of the fellowship has been an opportunity, without which I’d probably spend all my time in the engineering building. My two years in Columbia would have been a blur of calculus equations and chemical reactions, devoid of the rich memories and community integration I have found at CCUA. Sounds desolate, I know.

Instead, volunteering at CCUA makes me feel like I am a part of something and I have grown to understand and appreciate the community through the relationships I’ve formed over the past year. I cherish the outdoor time, whether I’m weeding at Kilgore’s Community Garden or installing a new Opportunity Garden bed. I’ve learned so much from my many teachers at CCUA: the other volunteers, the Opportunity Gardeners, and, of course, the knowledgeable staff. They have shown me new gardening techniques, traded recipe ideas, and shared life experiences over a pot-luck dinner.

What never ceases to amaze me is how similar all gardeners, new and experienced, are. While I served in Peace Corps Senegal as an agroforestry agent, I had lots of interaction with farmers, who were always eager to show me their gardens and to have me taste their most prized produce. Although the plants and pests in their gardens may differ, I am greeted with that same enthusiasm and openness by Columbia gardeners that I’ve been fortunate to meet through CCUA.

But CCUA is about more than gardening! It is about creating a sustainable community. And that aspect is evident in the mosaic of backgrounds and diverse experiences of the clients, staff, volunteers, and all the people that this organization has touched. Because despite all of our uniqueness, we are all residents of Columbia interested in filling our minds with knowledge and our bellies with good food. The “Food is good” mantra unites everyone around a common idea, which Columbians can build on to develop a stronger, healthier, and more integrated community. So open your eyes, ears, and mouths and fill up on the smorgasbord of good food know-how brought together in the multifaceted programs at CCUA!

See you at the Hootenanny!

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