Mary’s Story

Even after many years of digging happily in the dirt, Mary unearthed a whole new layer to gardening when she received an unexpected email.

“I’ve enjoyed gardening all my life. I love to be outside, pretty much no matter what the weather. I love to dig in the dirt. I Iove the community aspect. For the disabled person, gardening is way more than just the gardening.”

Living with Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), she has increasingly struggled with the physical tasks at Cottonwood Community Garden, where she’s had a plot for the past ten years. To contribute to the collective efforts there, she’s taken on administrative duties, and it was in this role that she first heard about DIGA. When a volunteer contacted her to inquire about plots for gardeners with disabilities, Mary told her that she was looking for someone to help with the more strenuous work on her own plot.

“Now, I, as a member of DIGA, I have my plot and have my volunteer, and I’m very, very happy about that. Before, people were willing to help me, but I was very hesitant about asking them to do too much. Now, I don’t have any guilt at all. I just feel completely fortunate.”

Pooling their knowledge and skills, Mary and summer staff member Odin make an excellent team as they tend to her abundant plot, which has a mix of perennials and produce.

“I have a Purple Tree Collard,’ she says, by way of example. ‘But I can’t reach the top, so my volunteer’s been doing my bidding on that,’ she laughs. ‘What I enjoy is that we’re learning together.”

Gardening, says Mary, has not become any less important as her condition has progressed, and the pandemic has only heightened her appreciation for the plot at Cottonwood Community Garden. “I figure I can keep on doing this as long as I have DIGA volunteers. I would like the word to get out that DIGA exists and how valuable it is. How unbelievably valuable it is.”