Organic Garden cultivates traditions, learning at Kanuga

07.04.2014 - Camps & Outdoor Education, Conference & Retreat, Groups, MTOS

Mona Ponder and her mother Jane Gribbin wandered through the colorful garden, searching for just the right zinnia or sunflower to complete the flower arrangement that would eventually brighten up their family’s guest house during Kanuga’s Summer Guest Period.

This is the third year the two have visited Kanuga’s organic garden together to pick flowers during their Guest Period stay. Gathering blooms on Monday mornings in the garden has become a tradition for many.

“We love to decorate our guest house with fresh flowers,” said Gribbin of Birmingham, AL. “It’s especially nice to have for our pre-dinner parties.”

The one-acre Bob Foster Education Garden Center has been providing not only flowers for guests, but vegetables, herbs, and even fruit from an adjacent orchard. Now in its sixth year, the well-tended plot on Kanuga’s Bob Campbell Youth Campus serves several purposes, with the primary focus on education.

“We use it as a hands-on classroom to teach students from the Mountain Trail Outdoor School, campers from Camp Bob, as well as children from the summer youth programs,” said Garden Manager Jane Vogelman Lubbers. “We cover concepts such as sustainability, life cycles, and healthy eating habits.”

Vogelman Lubbers and her team also harvest produce and flowers to sell at the weekly farmer’s market held during Summer Guest Period to help fund the garden. Any excess food makes it way to the Kanuga kitchen and is served to guests.

Other funding for the garden comes from generous donors. One significant donation, by Robert “Bob” Foster, made it possible for the garden to operate year-round.  The gift expanded the garden in 2012 to include a 20-seat gazebo/outdoor classroom and a greenhouse that allows for twelve months of growing.


Basil grows in abundance this time of year in the garden. Try our much-loved recipe for basil pesto:


Yields 1 cup

1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste (We make ours with lots of pepper!)

Place pine nuts and garlic in food processor and run for 15 seconds. Add basil leaves, salt and pepper and pulse until a coarse paste forms. With the processor running, slowly pour olive oil into the feed tube and process until pesto is pureed. Add parmesan and puree for one minute. Enjoy fresh or freeze.