Building Friendships with Backyard Gardens

Building Friendships with Backyard Gardens

By: Julia Hall – Intern Summer 2017

In early May, the backyard garden program (BYG) began at Mission of Mary Farm. Over the last two months, the summer staff has installed 15 (and counting) raised garden beds in the Twin Towers Neighborhood.  Additionally, MMC has provided seeds, supplies, workshop opportunities, and cookbooks to the households with BYGs. More importantly, however, the BYG program has created the opportunity to spend time with friends whose homes fall from Bidleman Street to Saint Paul Avenue.


Chard- MOMF

The Dayton Friends Meeting House:

A BYG Install

The cedar planks surrounding the two garden beds smelled sweet as a promising array of vegetable plants had begun to mature. Tucked behind the mid-size Dayton Friends Meeting House on Wyoming Avenue, I squatted eye-level with squash leaves. As I admired a vibrant orangey-yellow fruit blossom, I heard a hello from beyond the parking lot. This occasion was the third time that I was graced by the presence of Ms. Phyllis Tonne, gardener extraordinaire.


Ms. Tonne embodies a warm spirit with a community vision, teal earrings, and passion for children’s education. Retired from a career with a variety of educational employments, her fingers itched to be involved with the messy, dirty nature of gardening. With thirty years of gardening experience and a renewed desire to work with children, she became involved in Ruskin Elementary’s Miracle Makers program, leading a Gardening Spark.


Describing the intersection of community and gardening, Ms. Tonne turned to her work at Ruskin. Planting, as she explained, is both a moment of hope and a possibility of failure. The seed, underground, has the potential to grow and thrive. Despite the possibility of failure, the seed is planted. From Ms. Tonne’s perspective, the hope that the seed may grow makes planting the seed worth the effort.


Instrumental in her neighborhood as a visionary and a community-builder, Ms. Tonne encouraged the Dayton Friends Meeting House on Wyoming to participate in our Backyard Gardening Program.


“Sometimes even the small things can be beautiful,” Ms. Tonne mentioned, off-handedly, as she examined the two 8’ by 4’ raised garden beds that had been installed three weeks prior.


As she walked me through the Meeting House, she shared a bit of her Quaker faith and lifestyle. She spoke of the consensus decision-making process that the Friends use when making communal choices as well as the work that went into creating the welcoming, multi-purpose space. Ms. Tonne expressed the desire that the BYG on Wyoming will function in a similar, welcoming spirit to the rest of the established indoor space.


With her big ideas in regards to the usage of the garden beds as places of working, harvesting, and dining together, Ms. Tonne dreams of the BYG and the Dayton Friends Meeting House becoming a place for people to gather with, of course, the obtainment of a consensus by her religious community.



IMG_1713 (1)

A BYG family and summer interns pose at an install.


In addition to the Dayton Friends Meeting House, gardens have been installed in the backyards of several Twin Towers’ families. We have had the honor to spark and deepen relationships with many wonderful teens, children, pets, and new friends within the neighborhood.