Sarah Teofanov talks about the community garden panel she is organizing at her home on Wednesday.
Sarah Teofanov talks about the community garden panel she is organizing at her home on Wednesday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON — Most Saturdays, master gardener Sarah Teofanov sits at the Farmer's Market in Flora Vista under a sign that reads "Ask a master gardener."

The 67-year-old believes that it's a lack of knowledge and support that often prevents people from growing their own food.

"Getting started seems like a big issue with many people I meet who have the impulse, without the know-how or nerve, to start their own garden," said Teofanov, a lifelong activist, permaculture designer, teacher and local foods enthusiast. "The myth is that it's an ordeal to get going, but it's really just a joy and a constantly inspiring learning experience."

Teofanov hopes that an event she has organized this Saturday will encourage people to learn about gardening and growing their own food.

Representatives from three area gardens — the Samaritan Village Community Garden in Aztec and Farmington's New Beginnings community garden and the "Garden of Eaten" garden at Bethany Christian Church — will share stories and perspectives about digging in San Juan County's dirt.

Teofanov, a board member with the Farmington Grower's Market, is hosting the event. It is sponsored by the Farmington Grower's Market and the Master Gardeners Program of San Juan College.

Teofanov wants more people in the area to know that the community gardens are open, and she hopes the presenters will inspire gardeners to exchange ideas.

"I have encouraged them to speak to the history of their gardens, what they have learned, what they need from the community at large and what advice they would pass on to people interested in starting their own gardens," Teofanov said.
Sarah Teofanov is organizing a community garden panel at the Farmington Museum, Saturday.
Sarah Teofanov is organizing a community garden panel at the Farmington Museum, Saturday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
"There is simply not enough farm' for a place with a name like Farmington, and I'd like to see more people making connections with each other, the habitat in which they live and to truly experience growing their own food."

One of Saturday's presenters is Chris Carlson from the "Garden of Eaten" garden at Bethany Christian Church. Carlson, a retired educator, started a six-bed garden at her church with 12 other gardeners, bringing together people invested in growing local food in a sustainable way. The group shares the spoils with the ECHO Food Bank.

"I wanted to do something different, and our garden's mission is to take as much quality produce as we can to ECHO," Carlson said.

The church's garden delivered more than 650 pounds of produce — tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans — to the Farmington food bank last year, she said.

On Saturday, Carlson will focus her presentation on active participation, employing a Socratic approach she has honed from many years in the classroom.

"I want to give people the chance to hold various gifts from the ground and ask questions that I hope will lead to understanding of the experience of growing food," she said. "What is it like and how does it feel to produce something like a tomato from which you made your own homemade salsa?"

Also scheduled to present Saturday are Joann Clifford from Samaritan Village Community Garden and Diana Ohlson from the New Beginnings community garden.
Local artist, Sarah Teofanov demonstrates proper way to water a garden at her home in Crouch Mesa, Wednesday, Teofanov is organizing a community garden
Local artist, Sarah Teofanov demonstrates proper way to water a garden at her home in Crouch Mesa, Wednesday, Teofanov is organizing a community garden panel at the Farmington Museum, Saturday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

In 2009, Ohlson rode her bicycle from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., to raise money to support New Beginnings' garden.

"Gardening helps renew the human spirit and soul," she said. "I've learned immensely from Sarah (Teofanov) about taking baby steps, being patient, to allow for good things to grow."

Ohlson, who is looking forward to sharing perspectives with fellow gardeners on Saturday, plans to speak about the administrative, collaborative process involved in sustaining a community garden.

Teofanov echoed that concept. She called a garden "a perfect metaphor, a place where people can go and figure out their mutual and varied needs, take cues from each other and the soil."

"Permaculture teaches us that you start small and continually build on success. Is it a garden? I call it my learning curve," she said.

James Fenton can be reached at jfenton@daily-times.com; 505-564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @FentonDT