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Verna Laboy: "It just adds to our life, to the quality of our life when we really explore nature."

Verna Laboy wears sunglasses and a colorful scarf. She smiles to camera in front of some fair booths with orange canopies and a banner with the name of a farm on it.
Becca Newton

Verna Laboy spoke with the Missouri On Mic team at an annual tree giveaway for Arbor Day that was held at the Columbia Farmers Market in April. She’s a gardener and spoke about her connection to nature.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Verna Laboy: I live in an old Victorian home here in the heart of the community, and it's on one of the busiest streets here in Columbia, Missouri—Worley Street.

And I can sit on my front porch—that's my outdoor living room in the summer. I love when it warms up and I sit on the porch and watch all the insects and the hummingbirds and the squirrels and it's my hobby.

I love landscaping my Victorian home and growing a few vegetables between the flowers.

It just adds to our life, to the quality of our life when we really explore nature, and really understand nature, and work and live and play and grow in harmony with the nature around us.

There's quality and healing that takes place when you can sit still and embrace and learn to understand and grow with nature.

I named a big pin oak tree that I lost in the pandemic.

It was about 80 years old, and it started dropping limbs, and it provided so much shade to the southwest corner of the property and its branches just reached out across the front of my property and east to the street. But it started dropping limbs and I had to make a choice between my house or the pin oak.

Her name was Grace. I coached her, I begged her to please grow new roots, but she kept dropping limbs. So we had to drop Grace.

So we lost Grace in March of 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic.

And yeah, that still I leave a stump there in her memory and I call it the Grace feeding table.

It's where I put the seeds and the nuts for the squirrels and the birds. What I've done is, I'm making it a pollinator garden with native plants around it.

So there's lots of color and lots of birds and squirrels always at the Grace feeding table, so lots of Monarch butterflies and hummingbirds and bees.

I'm looking to have more native plants in my garden.

Instead of buying the hybrid stuff at the big box stores, you know, looking for things that are native to my community that feed the bugs and the insects and the just nature. You know, what thrives here and you don't have to give it so much water and extra nutrients because they are natural to our Missouri environment.

Caoilinn left KBIA in December of 2022.
Caoilinn Goss is the Audio Convergence Editor at KBIA. She trains and oversees student reporters, editors and anchors to produce daily afternoon newscasts. She's also a Missouri Journalism School alum.