Growing a Generation
Through her work as a Sallas-Mahone Elementary School substitute teacher and her work with the Boys & Girls Club, Jane Teasley had seeded a new garden club for children ages 5 through 12 years old.
Early in the academic year, Teasley led the children in gardening activities at the Boys & Girls Club’s Toombs Street location. They went on a field trip to the Mallory farm on Bemiss Road. She taught them the basics of gardening.
Jane learned gardening from both her maternal and paternal grandparents. She recalls her maternal grandfather growing radishes and squash while her maternal grandmother grew roses. She recalls her paternal grandfather growing basil and mint and him pulling a mint leaf and giving it to her to taste, there, outdoors, fresh from the garden.
Jane drew upon these experiences to not only instruct the children in how to garden but to inspire them to garden. She also hoped to inspire the idea of community involvement and a community garden.
The Seed is Planted
Diane Howard understands the needs of gardens and community. She has worked with Downtown Valdosta’s Farm Days and created lunch-and-learn programs related to gardening and sharing the region’s fresh produce with the community.
She brought Jane Teasley’s garden club and the Reddens together.
“I acquired the task from Mrs. Diane Howard,” Teasley said. “She told me of a lady and her husband who wanted a garden but could not get out and grow their own plants.”
Howard arranged a meeting and, together, she and Teasley met with the Reddens. “I did not know what to expect ...,” Teasley says, “but I wanted to personally meet and visit with the Reddens before we started our work. They are both very personable, God-fearing people who seem to love life a lot, regardless of what special needs they have.”
The Reddens were uncertain what to expect with 20-some children coming to their house on a regular basis.
“Coming up as a child as a person with disabilities, other people could be cruel,” Elizabeth Redden says. “But these kids, they always say, yes ma’am, and ask how we’re doing and they are always smiling.”
These children also planted a garden of squash, okra, tomatoes, etc. Teasley along with helpers Marley Williams and Victoria Okereke help the youngsters seed and tend the garden, but so have the Reddens’ caregivers Mary Bivins and Annie Jackson, and the bus driver who brings the youngsters each week. People see what’s happening with these kids and this garden and they want to participate.
They want to see how this garden and this unexpected community of the Reddens, these small children and their teacher, as well as caregivers, bus drivers and others, will grow.