A Love Story


Love at first sight runs in our family.

My mother tells me she saw my father for the first time when she was 13 years old between classes in the crowded halls at Samuel L. Gompers Junior High in Los Angeles. She knew at first sight he was the man she was going to marry. Daddy took a little more convincing… but not much. They “courted” through the early years of WW2 and when he got drafted in 1945, mother took matters into her own hands and planned their wedding. And sent him an invite to his own wedding. He got it in the mail and said to himself “Well, I guess I’d better buy a suit.” They were married June 16, 1945 right before he left to serve for three years in the Occupied Forces of Japan.

After the war they moved to my hometown of St. Helens, Oregon. Daddy got a job at the papermill and called my mother at lunchtime every day for 35 years to tell her he loved her. She never missed a call.

We lost Daddy in 2013. They’d lived 72 happy years together. Pillars of the community. And excellent examples of extraordinary, ordinary people.

I met my husband, Peter, at the Martini Ranch in Chicago in 1997. I wasn’t much of a bar goer and it was a mere coincidence that I happened to be there that night. We met, talked over the loud bar noises and, at one point, locked eyes. Then a voice in my head said “Oh, there you are!” We were inseparable from that day forward and will be celebrating our 20th anniversary this spring.

Why am I telling you this? To prove that my mother and I are certifiably insane? Maybe. And I’m ok with that. But there’s more that voice wanted to tell me…

In 2010 I was a corporate wonk traveling 80% of the time in the live event business and I was very, very unhappy. That same year I started Peterson Garden Project as a way to share my love of food gardening with more people. I thought it would be fun if 20 people wanted to learn to grow their own food together. It turned out to be the largest organic food garden in the city at that time. And has grown into an educational organization that teaches thousands of people annually how to grow their own food organically. But back to the voice…

In 2011, I was on a plane in the window exit row. I was reading a book called A Nation of Farmers when, out of the blue, the same “Oh, there you are” voice said “You’ve found your life’s calling.”

I always think of the poor woman sitting in the middle seat next to me because I burst into tears. Big, wet wailing tears (which I tried to contain because, well, I was on a plane.) I knew “the voice” wasn’t a liar. I did question my sanity a little bit, too. But, later that year when I got downsized from the job I hated (thankfully), I decided to see what could become of Peterson Garden Project if I put my energy and talents to it. 

As I’ve said… the organization became more than I ever expected growing to eight plus gardens, books, videos, classes. All the while recruiting, educating and inspiring everyone to grow their own food.

And as the years went by, I realized more and more that gardens, gardening and community were a powerful tool for personal and community change.

Turns out the voice was right – again. It’s now 2019 and I’m embarking on the next phase of my “life’s mission” to introduce people to the revolutionary joy of gardening. Peter and I - and a team of really amazing people - are opening City Grange – the nation’s first education-based garden center. Our mission is to remove barriers to gardeners’ success so more urban dwellers can discovery the joy and wonder of growing things.

And maybe, in their own ways, fall in love.