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Tucson, AZ: Sun City West Agricultural Club Community Garden

  • Subject: [cg] Tucson, AZ: Sun City West Agricultural Club Community Garden
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2005 18:03:54 -0400

Many seniors test their gardening skills in community plots
Apr 12, 2005, 11:40 AM 
Just over the wall on the northeast side of Grand Avenue near Litchfield Road, opposite the hustle and bustle of the Surprise Towne Center, sits one of the best kept secrets in Sun City West. 
On a 7-acre site, tucked in the heart of a residential neighborhood, is the Sun City West Agricultural Club, whose 204 individually maintained plots are like a health food store offering aisle after aisle of fresh, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables. 
"What I do is for lunch I'll have some peas and some broccoli," said member Betty Berberich who operates two plots with her sister, Clare Kurzweil. "Every day I just eat a little of that and some lettuce." 
Berberich shows off the elevated beds she created to help make the hands-on work of gardening easier on her and Kurzweil's backs. Despite the effort, it's clearly a labor of love. 
"I worked in an office my whole life, so being in the garden is my escape," Berberich said. 
She shows off her "experimental" bed, which has vegetables she's just trying out, followed by rows and rows of onions, garlic, tomato, chives, parsley, peppers, beets, lettuce, carrots, peas and more. 
Member Marie Coulter said she keeps her beds flush to the ground and uses knee pads to do her work. She's proud of her banana squash and watermelon, but there are at least a dozen more goodies growing in her plot, which is lined with flowers around the edges. 
"The beets are wonderful here," said Coulter, also showing off her red Swiss chard. "God, is that ever delicious. It has a wonderful flavor." 
Westside Food Bank in Surprise will begin benefiting even more from the club as members begin a weekly donation. Every Wednesday, Coulter will bring all donated vegetables and fruits to the food bank. 
The weekly donation picks up where others have left off, such as the Sun City Garden Club, which lost its plots in Sun City last year, donated tons of food every year to Westside. 
Plot manager June Wilde said Arizona has both a winter and summer growing season. In the winter, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, lettuce, radish and carrots do well. Corn can be planted in early spring and again in August. In late winter, the second season begins, when onions, corn, tomatoes, peppers, melons and beans thrive. 
The club's 178 members, some of whom operate more than one plot, have personalized their little piece of the earth. Some have simple hose irrigation, others are hooked to drip systems. Some have shade blankets, some hang CDs from the fencing to scare away birds. Some plots are dedicated to just a few vegetables and others boast a bounty of greenery. 
Club Vice President Gary Snyder said the club has been at its current location since 1987. 
For $5 annual dues, a water fee of about $30 per year and a refundable $35 cleanup and key deposit, members can have fresh vegetables on their kitchen tables all year long, Wilde said. 
"With the price of produce going up and pesticides used on them, yours can be pesticide-free, and for a little hard work and a lot of help from fellow gardeners, you can proudly say, 'I grew them myself,'" she said. 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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