Working on the Garden Resource Book: An Update From Marie Williams

Image by Saira Khan-Hendrix

Marie Williams, a student and History major at Arkansas Tech University, provides this update on her work at the McElroy House. More photos and information coming soon!  If you’d like to know to get involved with the McElroy House please contact us at the “Contact” link at the top of this site. We’d love to hear from you! 

Interviewing local growers has proven to be quite an enlightening experience. All the gardeners I have interviewed so far for the McElroy House have had similarities even though they have all been very different people.

My first interview was with Kristen Simmons, a young woman in her twenties, who grows chickens. She was full of life and excitement. The interview got me excited about the project in a way I had not been before. The goal of the Garden Book and of the McElroy House is to draw community members in with the stories of local gardeners that they can relate to and then to show them how these growers are more similar to them then they are different. Kristen was relatable and warm, exactly what we were looking for.

My next interview did not go quite as expected but I learned a valuable lesson. The couple was in their nineties and had kept a garden all their lives. Their story was interesting and showed me that to some growers, growing their own food was a necessity of life, like breathing.

Dean Williams was my third interview and as a man in his seventies he was very lively. He was extremely proud of his garden, which he takes care of all by himself. He grows more than fifteen different types of vegetable in his ten beds. I walked through the garden with him and enjoyed listening to his stories about life, growing, and the things he has learned throughout the years.

My fourth interview with Marcia Stang was a story of perseverance. Marcia, in her fifties, has only been growing a few years. It has taken a few tries to figure out exactly what she wants to grow and how to get her garden to make it through the weather and life’s challenges.

Linda Ford and I sat down for my fifth interview and talked about family and why people garden. She fondly remembered her grandfather keeping watermelons and her mother and father working in their own garden throughout the years. Although Linda has an Associate’s Degree in Horticulture, she never kept a full garden of her own. She does grow flowers and occasionally tomatoes. She has always enjoyed the surplus of the many gardeners in her life.

At each of these interviews I learned more about people and their relationship to the earth. Each thought that the most rewarding part of keeping a garden was seeing their harvest after all their hard work. I can still see each one of their proud smiles as they talked about what they grow. I can only hope that these interviews, as well as the other stories that will be compiled in the Garden Book, will touch the life of someone the way they did mine. The McElroy House will be able to give the community the opportunity to hear these stories and experience the same type of pride that these growers have.

I am looking forward to interviewing more growers as the project expands. If you enjoy growing or have fond memories of a gardener and you want to share your story, please let us know. Any one of us at the McElroy House would enjoy listening to you. Your story could impact the life of a future gardener! 

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