Come for weeds; stay for friendships

FERGUS – What is a Digger? Every Tuesday morning you can find as many as 30 of them in purple shirts working in the gardens in Fergus.

They are a team of volunteers from the Fergus and District Horticultural Society that tend to the public gardens from the end of May through to the fall.

The earliest record of diggers dates back to 1878. They weren’t organized back then and did not wear purple. Now the planning and scheduling is much more sophisticated and managed by the chair and co-chair, Bev Dawson and Linda Murray.

Being a digger gives its members a sense of civic pride; a way of contributing in a meaningful way.

You get diggers like Mary Epoch saying, “I’m always inspired by the appreciation that people show for the beauty we’ve created.”

Or Jennifer Johnson, “I enjoy when people stop and say thank you.”

Or Bev Dawson, “I enjoy working beside wonderful gardeners while we make our town beautiful.” Her husband Bob says he enjoys working with a great group of like-minded people.

At the heart of why this team has been so successful are the people. This is a group that likes each other, enjoys spending time together and many have even become friends.

I like how Bert Peel put it: “My biggest enjoyment is the coffee time after we have finished working in the gardens, and it doesn’t end there. All through the winter months you will find 25 to 30 diggers meeting for coffee on a Tuesday morning. It is all about relationships.”

They meet for coffee each week at the Red Door. They look forward to yearly events like Friday night at the Elora Raceway set up by George Kron.

“We enjoy dinner, a few laughs together and the raceway treats as well,” said Clair McKay.

Or the barbecue at Bert and Marilyn Peel’s country retreat near Belwood. “I look forward to seeing the group at the barbecue. The country setting is so relaxing,” said Juri Niit.

There are evening get-togethers and morning coffees at people’s private homes. There is always something going on.

My wife Patty and I moved to this area four years ago. Our new neighbours Fred and Lesley Mallett welcomed us and asked if we would consider becoming diggers. It made our transition into Fergus easy.

This great group of people made us feel connected to the community. We look forward to working in the gardens and having a coffee every week.

Yes it is about digging, planting, pruning, dead-heading, weeding and watering. But it is so much more.

The diggers are a great group of people we are happy to call our friends. We welcome anyone who would like to become a digger.

Ken Johnston has been a member of the Fergus & District Horticultural Society for four years.