Columbia Gardeners

Columbia Gardeners History

Columbia Gardeners’ roots reach back to the 1960s when both the city of Columbia and the U.S. community gardening movement were in their infancies. From the start, CG was a grassroots, all-volunteer organization. Inspired leadership, a committed membership and thousands of hours of hard work account for our achievements over the years.
1968─1969:  Columbia pioneer and activist, Evelyn Haynes, persuaded her friend James Rouse to provide a small plot of land on HRD (Howard Research & Development Corp., Columbia’s developer) property for community gardening. About 30 people gardened on land near what is now the Columbia Mall.
1974:  Word spread quickly and 5 years after forming, nearly 1000 Columbia families rented garden plots at 3 sites located on HRD property slated for future building. They called themselves ―Columbia Gardeners and began a campaign to acquire land for permanent plots. A newsletter, ―The Agronomist was begun and we adopted our Green Thumb logo.
1975-1976:  CG became "Columbia Gardeners, Incorporated." Alex Hekimian, first president under incorporation (and still a CG member today), assumed leadership of the effort to acquire permanent plots and to obtain IRS Federal tax exempt status for CG. Because officials at the IRS were unfamiliar with the then new concept of "community gardening," they initially rejected CG’s application. In protest, the gardeners mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign that included requesting support for their cause from all of the Maryland state representatives and senators, President Ford and President Carter. CG documented to IRS officials the significant educational and social programs/benefits it promoted.
1977:  Howard County's first permanent community garden site, the ―Elkhorn Branch Community Garden on Oakland Mills Road, was dedicated in May. The result of CG’s ―Permanent Plots Now! campaign, the site was acquired in cooperation with HC government and HRD. In addition, the IRS reversed its earlier decision and granted CG Federal tax exempt status as a social welfare organization under the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4).
1988:  Two more permanent garden sites were finally opened – one on Old Dobbin Road in Long Reach and one on Martin Road on the ―West Side. Amenities at West Side were not completed until 1995. Both sites featured raised beds for physically-challenged gardeners.
1998-1999:  CG offered plots to Foreign-Born Information & Referral Network (FIRN) participants. Immigrant gardeners are a growing and vibrant segment of our organization.
2010:  Almost 100 new plots were added at Long Reach and Elkhorn sites through cooperation with the HC Department of Recreation and Parks, Baltimore Gas & Electric, HC Community Action Council and the HC Food Bank. Rental fees provide access year-round.

2013: The persistence, passion and politics of the Columbia Gardeners culminated in the highly rated Columbia Archives historical exhibit arranged by Columbia Gardeners historian Mary V. Gold. The exhibit documented the history of the organization with letters, reports, maps, photographs and other historical items.