Roger and Sheila Harris of the People's Food Guild believe food should be free just like the air they breathe. This is why they are planting gardens around Boonville and distributing the produce to local individuals and by giving it to the local food pantry. In addition to growing food, they will also offer classes on preserving food either by canning or dehydration.
"We plant gardens in different places in town so people have access to food no matter where they are. Everyone volunteers to help grow and harvest the garden," Harris said.
Harris learned early on the importance of being self sufficient ever since growing up on an Indian Reservation on a mountain in Oregon. Harris said the growing season was very short and the weather was always a problem if they wanted to go into the nearby town so they had to grow, make and preserve everything they had, especially in winter.
When Harris moved to Boonville, he was amazed by the long growing season. He also began to grow container gardens in his small back yard, even through the winter that they shared with their neighbors.
"We had salad all throughout winter," Harris said.
Soon with the help of a neighbor, the Harris' decided to expand their gardens to a much larger scale. They fed seven families from the garden along with filling their own pantries as well.
With assistance from Central Missouri Community Action's Step Up to Leadership Class and members of the Community Action Team, the Harris' were able expand their gardens to areas across Boonville, including locations on 11th Street and the 800 block of Sixth Street. They are also helping the Concerned Citizens for a Better Community, formerly Concerned Citizens of the Black Community, with their garden.
The gardens this year consist of potatoes, corn, tomatoes, zucchini and squash to name a few. Pumpkins are also a hot item so the guild will be growing them as well.
"We have a lot of little kids who come, and we teach them how to plant and dig. Today they were pulling weeds. And then a little boy was hunting bugs," Sheila Harris said.
She said once the children grow up and learn these skills, they are not dependent on others.
The guild receives donations from local individuals such as seeds and occasionally land.
While gardening is their primary concern, teaching these techniques is the key to progressing the project. The Harris' offer classes for individuals wanting to learn more. Some of the classes offered include growing gardens in containers and preserving the food once it is harvested.
Harris explains the concept is not new but one, which was practiced in the not so distant past.
"These are the things your great-grandparents did," Harris said.
Page 2 of 2 - One of the hardest parts of the gardening process for the Harris' and volunteers is the lack of water in certain spots. They have to carry five gallon jugs of water to the gardens. They are currently seeking a large water container, which is able to carry enough to water multiple gardens.
The guild plans to expand beyond just gardening to the next phase, which consist of grazing livestock on land and giving the meat away.
Harris along with volunteers plan to do most of the work. The only obstacle at this time is finding the land. He hopes to find land near the edge of town with easy access.
The guild is sponsored by Boonville COOP, Walmart, C&R Market and Orscheln.
To contact Harris please call 660-888-8052 or find him along with any guild member in one of the many gardens around town.