NOLANVILLE — A Winnebago motor home with a buffalo burger sign sits in the center of a property along 10th Street where Mary Bollinger has created a unique garden to spread the word about the importance of healthy eating.
Bollinger started working on her garden about two years ago.
“My aunt was kind enough to let me move here,” she said. “I had put all of my money into the stock market and that wasn’t very fruitful, so what I didn’t lose, I spent and started selling buffalo burgers.”
A former biology teacher in Florence and Belton and then a Realtor, Bollinger’s foray into the burger business didn’t last long. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, she won her battle with the disease about seven years ago. As a result, she began pursuing a healthy lifestyle.
“You never get over cancer because it can always come back, that is why it is important for people to eat well,” she said.
Bollinger’s gardening days date back to childhood, when her grandmother helped her develop a green thumb. “I just put the plant in the ground and it grows,” she said. “You have to nurture it with water and sunshine but not too much.”
Today, her garden is filled with corn, spinach, turnips, potatoes, squash, zucchini and carrots. She also grows herbs, such as cilantro, sage, chives, oregano, parsley and lavender.
“I try to keep a balanced garden with vegetables, fruits and herbs and use them as part of my diet,” Bollinger said. “My goal is to teach children how to survive and take care of themselves in case the economy goes flat.”
Bollinger also raises more than a dozen chickens and has two ponds for raising fish. “The chickens are very good therapy,” she said. “They settle you down and feed me eggs. Every so often I take a rooster and make him (into) dinner.”
Bollinger’s garden and chicken coop are separated by a row of doors she named the “Door of Life” project.
“Each time I’ve come out here she has added things, and she is one the hardest workers I know,” said Burnie Schumpert of Temple, who met Bollinger through church. “She is always making something out of nothing.”
Schumbert said he helped inspire Bollinger to grow her garden.
“The reason she is so dedicated is she wants to make a pleasant environment, not just for herself but for our heavenly father,” he said. “It’s a worship type of experience.”
Bollinger’s faith in God and promise to live an organic lifestyle also motivate her to garden.
“I’m content with everything I need,” she said. “I’m so blessed and grateful.”