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Good Will Overcomes Distance, Chill to Make Plant Sale Succeed

photo: heavily bundled woman with plants

Under normal conditions, Hansberry Garden’s annual plant sale is more than a fundraiser. It’s a day of celebration, when we invite the neighborhood into our beautiful space to welcome the arrival of peak gardening weather. We see old friends and meet new ones; the neighbors and supporters who buy plants can get advice about how to nurture them from experienced gardeners — and sometimes that advice comes from the very gardeners who propagated the plants from their own Germantown gardens!

So we missed all that this year. Because the threat of Covid-19 requires us to minimize contact as much as possible, we held the plant sale online and delivered most of the plants we sold. This was managed by a handful of volunteers — which was the idea, since larger gatherings of people present greater risk of transmission. The chilling of physical contact was paralleled by the weather, which was as unseasonably cold as any I’ve seen: in fact, there were brief snow flurries! For several years, I’ve been singing a song that includes the line, “I have seen snow that fell in May.” Next time I sing it, it will be a fact.

That said, the plant sale was, as a fundraiser, pretty successful. We didn’t raise as much revenue as we did last year, but we did collect a tidy sum to defray the costs of running the garden. There were some glitches in implementing the new sales system — especially when my Internet connection failed — but our customers, who patronize the sale not only to buy plants but to support our organization, were very forgiving. We have some stock left over, but I think that we can find contactless ways to dispose of most of it. We had fun!

Thanks to all who supported the garden by buying plants and being patient with our slip-ups! And I want to give a shout-out to some of the volunteers who made the sale possible. First, deep gratitude to Cherron Perry-Thomas of Green Dandelion Marketing, who pretty much invented our plant sale, years before I joined the garden. Cherron leveraged her wealth of connections in the urban-agriculture and landscaping communities (she has what, in days of yore, we might have called a “golden rolodex”) to source most of our inventory at very little cost to the garden, and gave us the benefit of her time and expertise in identifying, cataloging and counting the plants and other products she brought in; she also braved the harsh weather for many hours on Saturday to get plants labeled for delivery. Breah Banks, who works as the lead farmer at the Share Food Program, nursed a host of tomato, pepper and calendula seedlings in Share’s greenhouse for us. Heather Levi (more about Heather later) gave tender care to a number of tomato and pepper seedlings in our home. Robin Lowry, Kathy Miller, Janet Peterman, Laura Thomae, and Dennis Barnebey (also more about Dennis below) all contributed beautiful plants that they propagated from those in their own gardens (and I know it hurt Kathy not to be able to offer baked goods this year!). Lakesha Ferguson, Jackie Akins, and Dennis all picked up trash around the garden in advance of the sale, and Jackie posted some signs with instructions about gardening safely during the pandemic. Ann Torockio used her expertise as a web designer to help us identify and test the software we used to bring the sale online. Hillary Van Anda contributed lovely homemade face masks that we marketed as “pandemic apparel,” and, critically, uploaded much of our inventory into our sale website when my Internet connection failed. She and Kirk Raper (who as maintenance chair has been keeping our physical plant running at the garden) also generously hosted me on their porch, where I had access to their wifi, on a couple of evenings. The beer and homemade coffee cake they gave me were invaluable in warding off the chill.

New member Micheal Crumpler showed up to help us count inventory, as did Donna Skinner-Echols, and Marcus Knox spent several hours on Friday labeling plants, moving things around, and generally preparing things for order delivery. Laura Lacey of Attic Brewing, who has been driving around Northwest Germantown delivering beer for a couple of months now, gave us several hours of her time, expertise, and vehicle on Sunday — so efficiently that there was nothing left for Sheila Allen Avelin of Big Blue Marble Bookstore to do when she arrived for her volunteer shift. Heather and Dennis spent all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday with me at the garden, and Heather accompanied me on the delivery of a few heavy items on Monday. Dennis also made a few deliveries on Sunday — and at some point did pretty much every other task enumerated on the list above. I can’t thank Dennis and Heather enough for their unstinting generosity with their time — they cheerfully responded every time I called for help.

I should note that we had many other offers of help, but we accepted far fewer of them than we usually do, so as to reduce the number of people potentially exposed to infection. Thanks to all of those who volunteered. If I’ve left anybody out, please remind me with an email to info@hansberrygarden.org. Better yet, if you’re a garden member who contributed time to the sale, please report your hours in the looseleaf binder in the shed or this online form. Linda Rivera is checking hours every Sunday!