"It was music to my ears to hear Dad say over and over 'the weeding is so easy, they just pull right out" - Elizabeth Williams

Challenge from Dad “Grows” a New CI in North Carolina

For Elizabeth, it was just a matter of time before she continued her family’s gardening tradition.  

Her parents farmed 57 acres in upstate New York, raising livestock. “As a kid I was digging in dirt, helping mom in the vegetable garden, gathering eggs, and exploring every corner of our farm with my siblings,” she shares.  

Elizabeth WilliamsEven after the family moved to North Carolina in 1985, the Fiorentinos grew vegetables in their suburban front yard.  

“But here’s what else I remember: constant weeding, harvests coming in all at once, and watering being a major chore,” she chuckles.  

Decades later, those memories of inefficient, tedious gardening stuck with her. That’s why in 2012 a YouTube video on SFG caught her eye.  

With her interest in healthy eating, Elizabeth kept hearing about PlantPure Communities (PPC) and attended a local open house. She soon committed to a plant-based lifestyle and has been a vegan since 2017. “My husband’s diet is more traditional, but he enjoys many of the dishes I prepare,” she explains.  

Around that same time she became more active with PPC as a local pod leader. She also started spending more time with her dad, a widower who was still planting old-fashioned row gardens every year. And that’s how SFG popped back in Elizabeth’s life.  

Elizabeth Williams planting in elevated sfgPPC launched a Gardening Toolkit to pod leaders in 2018 that used the SFG Method. Elizabeth pored over the materials. “It all came full circle. I pulled out that book I bought in 2012 and started pestering Dad to stop his antique garden ways and start using SFG.” 

Elizabeth saw his dismay every year when his row garden had a poor yield, needed weeding all the time, and was often eaten by critters.

For ages she had been urging him: “Please try Square Foot Gardening. It’s a gamechanger, even for long-time gardeners like you.” 

“But he said ‘no’ every year, despite frustrating results in the garden. I would leave my SFG book at his place, I asked him to make Mel’s Mix. He would not budge.” 

Then the pandemic happened and “Dad saw how important it was to more easily grow his own food.” 

He gave Elizabeth a challenge in early 2021: Become a Certified SFG Instructor and he’d agree to garden ‘her’ way with a Square Foot Garden.  

She wasted no time! Elizabeth bought our Level 1 and 2 courses in late March, and by mid-April 2021 earned her certification.  

With Elizabeth now a CI, Dad was on a mission. Together they built five SFG boxes, two elevated beds and made Mel’s Mix. In went tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplants, squash, radishes and salad greens; staggering their squares allowed them to harvest until Thanksgiving.  

“Becoming a Certified Instructor allowed me to shift my 91-year-old Dad to a method that was finally joyful, easy and productive after years of tedious row gardening. I love seeing him outside more. This will be the only way we garden going forward.” - Elizabeth Fiorentino Williams


Elizabeth had a happy convert to SFG – and grew a fantastic, Dad-approved harvest her first season.

What advice does she have for new SFG gardeners? “Just get started! One thing I’ll do next year is harvest daily. I’d visit Dad weekly to harvest but that was not enough. This year I’ll be there more often to tend and pick. What a great chore to have!” 

“SFG is what I’d been looking for – a way to grow a lot of vegetables in a small space without all the work I remember as a kid” she says. Elizabeth bought the 2nd edition “All New Square Foot Gardening” book for $5 and was hooked on its simplicity and productivity. 

Did she want to grow vegetables with the SFG Method? Absolutely. “But there’s one thing I don’t have at home: sunshine!”  

Living with her husband outside of Chapel Hill where she works in Duke University’s HR department, her dreams of an SFG garden had to on pause, unfortunately. 

That part of the State happens to be near the headquarters of PlantPure Communities, a plant-based education and advocacy nonprofit founded by Nelson Campbell.