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Dave Berger of Cary was surprised when his daughter, Jamie, emailed him from college and asked him to take a class with her.
Jamie Berger admits she wasnt always easy to get along with as a teen. But learning about the environment through classes at UNC-Chapel Hill led her to reminisce about gardening with her dad as a kid, she said.
So in March 2011, the spring semester of Jamies sophomore year, the father-daughter duo enrolled in Organic Gardening for the Southern Garden, a continuing education class at the Friday Center.
To find out more about continuing education classes at UNC-Chapel Hill, go to www.fridaycenter.unc.edu.
Jamie figured the class would be a good way to spend some quality time with her father. They learned about composting and using organic materials to garden. Later that spring, they planted and weeded, harvested and ate.
Now a senior with a double major in French and interdisciplinary studies (food studies), Jamie is spending the semester in Paris. Dave works as a computer programmer in Cary. They both still like to talk about food, staying healthy and trying new things.
Q: What did you grow in the garden that first spring?
Dave Berger: We grew tomatoes, basil, beans, a small sampling of strawberries and a pumpkin. I think that was an accident.
Jamie Berger: We also had cucumbers, zucchini, sage and lettuce.
Q: How did the continuing education class affect your lives?
JB: I learned that gardening is not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. We got one or two eggplants, no zucchini; our tomatoes were stunted, our okra inedible. We didnt get much good food out of it; part of it is getting the soil right.
As far as being with my dad, it was nice that the class gave us an ongoing excuse to spend time with each other. I also think he is more open to trying new things now.
DB: I have been environmentally conscious most of my life, but Id never tried to go organic. I think Jamie was hoping my wife and I would start eating healthier, and I have changed my eating habits. For instance, I dont drink dairy milk anymore; I drink almond milk.
I have been composting for years, so we had wheelbarrow loads of compost to put in the vegetable garden. But since then, I have taken a class in worm composting, and the town of Cary supplied some worms that I have used to continue composting.
Q: Did your early experiences with your dad lead you to choose your college major?
JB: I was not conscious of that at the time I first chose environmental studies. But Dad was always outdoorsy and enjoyed gardening; he was receptive to my interests in agriculture. When I look back at things now, I can see how he affected my choices.
Q: What did you gain?
DB: A parent doesnt always know how a child feels about them. The class and the garden experience made me feel stronger about her bond with me. She is so glamorous; she could be a model. But I got to see a different side of her when she was digging in the dirt and getting her hands dirty.
When she was little, I made a big hole in the dirt right where our garden ended up and put Matchbox cars in there. She played in the dirt with them. It was rewarding to see her enjoying that time outside with me again.