The Transylvania Times -

Dirt Connects Rice Street Garden, Conservers


April 5, 2018

Courtesy photo

Pictured are (left to right) Mark Robinson, Karen Palmer, Bill Chandler and Kristine Hall, who facilitated the partnership between the garden and the Conservers. Robinson and his wife, Blue, learned about the garden from a recent article in The Transylvania Times. (Courtesy photos by Norah Davis)

On March 16 and 17, Rice Street Community Garden had a record turnout of volunteers for the first two workdays of the 2018 growing season.

The big gathering to plant cold-weather crops was thanks in part to a new study group in Brevard called Moving to Conservers. Of the 25 volunteers at the garden those two days, six were Conservers.

Two of those were Kim Coram and her husband, John Wiseman, who started the Conservers group in October 2017 with nine participants.

Six months later, they have more than 60 people on their email list.

The Conservers get together at informal weekly potlucks to discuss issues that concern them and then support each other in independent individual action, such as working to become households that produce zero waste.

For many of the group's members, one step toward zero waste is composting their kitchen scraps. The problem was where to take the kitchen waste.

One of the group's members, Kristine Hall, is also a volunteer at the Rice Street Community Garden. She contacted the garden's steering committee to ask whether the public can take kitchen waste to the Rice Street Garden for composting.

Rice Street Garden is located on a sloping hill diagonally across from the Farmers' Market. The land is owned by St. Philip's Episcopal Church, and about half of the volunteers are church members, and the others are members of the public who are novice or experienced gardeners.

This is the garden's seventh year of operation. All of the produce is donated to Sharing House and Bread of Life. To date, the garden's volunteers have given Brevard's food bank and soup kitchen about $19,000 worth of fresh organic produce.

The garden's steering committee told the Conservers that kitchen waste is welcome with two conditions: No meat or dairy is allowed, and all waste should be cut into small pieces for faster composting. Coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, and cut-up banana peels contain especially good nutrients for gardens. Vegetables and fruits, all cut in small pieces, are fine, too.

Several Conservers began regularly dropping off their kitchen scraps. Among them are Peter Chaveas, who is a former U.S. ambassador, and his wife, Lucille, who is a fine cook.

They began composting immediately, as did Conservers Katlyn Mobley, Ryan Bush, and Elizabeth Pell.

The Rice Street Community Garden's steering committee attended a Conservers gathering to show a slideshow about the garden's history. Afterwards, Pell said, "I brought my kitchen scraps to the garden. When I opened the compost bin, I was so excited.

The scraps had already turned to dirt."

The Conservers founders, Coram and Wiseman, have committed to turning the compost barrel periodically to help the scraps become soil more quickly. They are also searching for a second composting bin to donate to the Rice Street Garden. In addition, the group is compiling a directory of compost sites around the county that will accept kitchen scraps from the public.

Coram's interest in the environment goes back to her high school days in Parkersburg, the third largest city in West Virginia, when she took a course in forestry. "It got me interested in nature," she explained.

After graduating high school, she did a five-year tour in the military, serving the whole time on a bomb squad. While in the military in Germany, she obtained a college degree in computer studies.

After her tour was done, she worked in computer security for the state of Arizona and later for the U.S. Treasury Department in a bureau headquartered in Parkersburg.

She retired in 2006 and lived off the grid for a year in a recreational vehicle equipped with solar panels. In 2012, she was elected to the Parkersburg city council where she helped unseat corrupt politicians.

During that time, she and Wiseman met and married. Also a native of Parkersburg, Wiseman retired from DuPont after 35 years. He had worked as an instrument technician and in facility operations and management. Coram and Wiseman bought a house in Brevard in 2015.

"We moved to Brevard full-time in January 2017," said Coram, "for the area's clean water, mountain Biking and beer."

The water in Parkersburg, Coram says, has been polluted by chemicals and fracking.

Parkersburg's population declined from almost 45,000 in the 1960s to less than 32,000 today.

In addition to Coram and Wiseman, another Conserver-Ron Wingard-volunteered at the garden during one of the March workdays. Wingard says that his wife, Leslie, is also planning to volunteer as part of the community service required during her training to become a yoga instructor. A fellow yoga trainee, Elizabeth Lemon, was another March volunteer.

An aside: Another reason for the big March turnout is that more and more garden volunteers are starting to bring friends with them. Lynn Urbain brought Diane Elling, who decided to put her name on the garden's email list to receive notification of future workdays. She might well become a regular volunteer, like Heidi Miller, who was initially brought to a workday by frequent volunteer Anne Oliver.

But back to the Conservers: Two of them, Chris Hall and his 12-year-old daughter, Emily, were among the March volunteers.

Emily had volunteered at the garden last year with her mother, Kristine Hall, the one who initiated the informal partnering between the Rice Street Garden and the Conservers.

"The Conservers welcome all points of view," said Coram. "Our goal is civil dialogue on a topic in a respectful way, honoring each other's opinions and desires to make changes, or not."

Courtesy photo

Conservers John Wiseman and Chris Hall empty the kitchen scraps barrel at the Rice Street Community Garden and move the waste to finish composting elsewhere, freeing up the bin for more kitchen waste.

One couple in the study group has gone from producing 24 bags of trash per year to only four.

"The Conservers have had a huge impact on their lives," said Coram, "but some in the group choose not to implement zero waste to that degree."

By helping create dirt at Rice Street Community Garden, the Conservers are having a real impact.

They are having an effect, not just on their own households, but also on families and individuals in Brevard and Transylvania County who are hungry and rely on Bread of Life and Sharing House to help supply their food.

For more information on the Rice Street Community Garden, call Norah Davis at 877-4070. For information on Moving to Conservers, contact Kim Coram at jb


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