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Garden Tour Offers Fresh Veggies and Community

Alyson Ball

In the 21st century, Americans are sharply divided over many things.  Some people are afraid of catching COVID and want nothing to do with their neighbors.  Others are distrustful of foreigners. 

But a couple near Charlottesville  determined to break down barriers through their garden.

The garden grown by John Ball isn’t very big, just one-eighth of an acre, and it's not exactly exotic.

“We’re raising  kind of common stuff," Ball says. "Potatoes and onions and carrots, tomatoes, that sort of thing.”

But his wife, Alyson, says it’s a special place where neighborhood kids make magical discoveries.  John will, for example, show them the green leaves of a carrot.

“He says, ‘What do you think is under there?’ Alyson explains.  "They say, ‘I have no idea what’s under there,’ and he says, ‘Why don’t you pull it and see what comes out.’  The look on their face is amazing when that carrot comes out.  They cannot believe there’s a carrot under there, and they’ll never forget that." 

He’s also happy to grow crops by request.

Credit Alyson Ball
The tour is set for 10 a.m. to noon at 1098 Tilman Road in Ivy, west of Charlottesville.

“From across the street, those folks are from India and like really spicy, hot stuff, so I have grown such spicy peppers that they tell me, ‘Don’t even touch them,’" he recalls.  "It’s astounding how somebody from Mexico can be riding down the road at 25 miles an hour and spot a jalapeno plant.  They stop in, and we say, ‘Help yourself.’”

This Saturday they’re opening their garden to people from anywhere in the world.  Local children will serve as docents, telling what they’ve learned about each crop, and showing visitors a chart that identifies plants in five different languages.

The Balls will send visitors home with samples and, they hope, a new spirit of community.   The tour takes place Saturday, July 25 from 10 a.m. until noon at 1098 Tilman Road in Ivy, west of Charlottesville.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.