The Daily Courier's Philanthropy Corner profiles people working with Yavapai College to keep higher education accessible in our community.

Today, we feature Master Gardener and Talking Rock Ranch resident Peggy Stair.

Peggy Stair has always enjoyed gardening. "I grew up helping my father take care of our backyard garden in Pasadena," the Williamson Valley resident said. "My dad was known for his roses. But there were also citrus trees, camellias, gardenias, irises and begonias." Once she moved to Prescott, Peggy expanded her skill set. "I began to grow fruits and vegetables. You can grow almost anything here; it just takes more attention or protection." She earned her Master Gardener certification from the Yavapai County Extension Service and became manager for the 25-bed community gardens at her Talking Rock community.

Peggy cultivated opportunities, too. "I thought it would be good to encourage people to study and learn how to grow things. When I was in college, no one talked about plants," she chuckled. She donated to a Horticulture scholarship at the Yavapai College Foundation, "then I realized: When I went to college, it was ridiculously expensive. Maybe those students could use a little bit of money." So Peggy became a gardener/fundraiser.

"I tried an open house a few years ago. It was just me, and it didn't really work." She turned to fellow Talking Rock gardeners for help. "We started a newsletter, and developed the idea for a festival." The festival would showcase the community gardens while raising money for scholarships. Then COVID struck. The surrounding community was locked down. Local master gardeners, scheduled to offer tours, cancelled. But Peggy and company soldiered on.

"One of the reasons gardening has become popular now is because you can be outside, and be socially distanced." They changed their festival on the fly. It was restricted to residents of Talking Rock. An overwhelming number of community gardeners still wanted to participate.

"People created or donated art," she said. "We got quilts and paintings and iron sculptures for our silent auction. People made baked goods – everybody got involved." The Talking Rock community became both producers and audience – and it worked.

"We held the festival on August ninth – one of the hottest days of the year – and were still able to raise $2,600," she said. The money will be split between the Talking Rock community gardens and the Mary Barnes and Jeff Schalau Master Gardener scholarship at Yavapai College.

Peggy considers it a good start. "Once we get a vaccine, we'll be able to have it again." For her, the work embodies the community mindset that gardeners share. "Many community gardeners start out doing their own thing, just tending their own beds. But with encouragement and advice they are more than willing to get involved and share their knowledge and help support others any way they can."