Resident Spotlight: Andrew Mobley
Many of us ritualistically celebrate the fall season by digging out sweater and boot collections from the back of our closets. For Andrew Mobley, fall involves a different type of digging: the digging of soil. Autumn is the season to unearth the last of summer’s colorful potato varieties: Peruvian Purple, Yukon Gold and German Butterball. It’s the season to harvest pumpkins and squash along with small ears of corn to make perfect popcorn. As great as fall is, Andrew loves every season. “I really enjoy winter, because it’s my time to map out and plan what I’m going to plant the following year. I start lots of my plants at home in the early spring, and then move them into the garden. Last summer, I left carrots in the ground until Christmas Eve, so we could make a carrot dish for Christmas.”
Andrew is one of the many Puyallup residents who utilize the Community Garden off of 19th Avenue SW. The garden hosts 42 plots—each ten feet by ten feet, and available for rent year-round.
Andrew’s love for gardening was sparked as a kindergartener, when he brought home a sunflower seed in a dixie cup. “I transferred that seed to our backyard…before I knew it, it had become a 12-foot plant with a flower larger than my head.” Andrew has managed gardens of all sizes—from a few potted tomato plants on his front porch in Alabama, to a one-acre hobby farm in Colorado. No matter where he has lived, he has always made time for growing things.
“I’ve been in Puyallup for only three years, but I feel more a part of this community than anywhere I’ve ever lived. It’s obvious to me that Puyallup is a place where people care. I see it in the beautiful hanging baskets downtown, and in events like Meeker Days, the Farmer’s Market and the Fair.” The Community Garden has also played a huge part in Andrew’s life here in Puyallup. “I’ve made friends with a handful of the other gardeners—and learned a thing or two from the seasoned gardeners.”
Puyallup’s community garden has meant more to Andrew than a place to make new friends. After two spinal fusion surgeries, the garden has been a place of healing as well. “It’s been my physical therapy for the last two years,” Andrew said with a chuckle, “and it only cost me $15 and a few seeds—that’s it.” Prior to Andrew’s back surgeries, he was a science educator at a children’s museum in Alabama, where he ran an outreach program that served kids in low-income neighborhoods. “I was kind of the ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’ of Birmingham,” Andrew said. “We wanted to see how science enrichment projects would help 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders with their math and science scores. The data proved that the hands-on learning was a success.”
Though Andrew is still in physical recovery, he still aspires to share his love of science with those around him. He started an Instagram page for the community garden, posting stunning photos of the crops growing throughout the year—from cabbage and black tomatoes to vibrant yellow flowers and the bees that pollinate them. Andrew wants others to be aware of their opportunity to grow at the garden, and has a number of beneficial projects in mind, including growing produce with other gardeners for donation to the Puyallup Food Bank. He also wants to help build a raised table garden that would be wheelchair accessible.
Andrew believes there is something for everyone at the garden, and with his green thumb, passion and creativity, there is no doubt he will harvest something great here in Puyallup. “The community garden is a place where people help each other and learn from each other. Everybody can identify with growing things. Even the people who stroll through the garden can appreciate the beauty of what we’re doing.”
Andrew resides in Puyallup with his wife Elizabeth. Visit his Instagram page for seasonal photos of the garden, or learn more information on how you can rent a plot at the Puyallup Community Garden. (November 2016)