A Gardening Education: Alberta and Omer by Allen Bush

Photo courtesy of Joseph Hillenmeyer. While I wait for my first social security check to arrive later this month, I have been thinking about two crucial mentors. Alberta Coleman and Omer Barber fostered my gardening career. They were as different as a peony and a prickly pear. I volunteered to work with Alberta Coleman in the Vista program in 1973. Alberta founded Tenant Services, a non-profit in Lexington, KY, that advocated for the poor. She approached her job with perseverance and compassion. Clients came to Tenant Services because they had no money to pay rent; we had no money to pay their rent. We worked with the desperate poor to hold off evictions, helped them find jobs, and juggled their meager budgets. It was hard, frustrating work. Alberta made it seem as if there was no problem that couldn’t be solved. I planted my first garden the year before I met Alberta—lots of tomatoes and green beans. There were a few flowers, too. I still love the blazing orange-red blooms of the h..
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