The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 29, 2012

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Pittsburg 'garden party' was a real winner

PITTSBURG, Kan. — I had three ulterior motives in mind when I strong-armed my husband and our two sons into going to what was billed as a “garden party” Saturday night.

No. 1: I wanted to check on the status of the Pittsburg Community Garden, a project I had written about at its inception in 2009. Each year since, it has produced thousands of pounds of vegetables for the Wesley House food pantry. But were they able to grow anything this summer with no rain and mere dust for soil?

No. 2: Supper didn’t sound too great in 102-degree heat, but eating samples of nine flavors of homemade ice cream did. A tasting contest was to be the highlight of the garden party, with tickets funding the garden’s main expense: water.

No. 3: I thought it would be a great learning opportunity for the kids. They could experience democracy in action firsthand, since every person’s vote on which ice cream was best would count, and it would give them an up-close look at my favorite motto. “Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.”

Mostly, I just wanted ice cream.

So they begrudgingly agreed to load up and head to First Christian Church, where they weren’t sure if they would know anyone. They also weren’t sure if the flavors of homemade ice cream would be any good, because we make only vanilla. And they were pretty sure it was way too hot to tour a big vegetable garden anyway.

It was a hit.

We bought $12 worth of tickets and began our taste testing with all the seriousness of Olympic judges. We compared notes: blueberry or strawberry almond white chocolate? Mint or peach? Chocolate brownie or s’mores?

And then we voted, the good old-fashioned way: by dividing our arm’s length of tickets among empty pitchers in front of each ice cream.

Turns out they needn’t have worried about a roomful of strangers. In the style of the time-tested ice cream social, we saw plenty of people we knew, including my fifth-grade teacher, Phyllis Scorse. She gave us the best piece of information of the night.

“I read a study that said that ice cream actually lowers your stress, so that outweighs any negative health effects of eating it,” she said.

Turns out it also wasn’t too hot to look at the garden. The kids were impressed enough by the rows and rows of tomatoes, squash, peppers and corn that they forgot about the temperature for a few minutes. They also marveled over the wheelbarrows full of produce by the back door, a visual illustration of what can be picked and donated in just a few hours by dedicated volunteers.

The winners of the ice cream contest were Eric Rosenblad with chocolate brownie (his first-place trophy was a blue ice cream scoop), the Rev. Kevin Arensman with blueberry (red scoop) and Carolyn Allmond with strawberry chocolate almond (white scoop).

On the way home, though, we decided that everyone involved in the project was a winner, from the garden volunteers to the recipients of the produce. And us. We had cool mouths and happy tummies.

Have an idea for a column? Email, or visit Facebook at Andra Bryan Stefanoni, Staff Writer - The Joplin Globe. Visit the Globe’s newest Facebook page at Joplin Globe: Pittsburg, Kan. Follow Andra Stefanoni on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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