One of the best things about Community Gardening is growing our community, however narrowly or broadly you wish to define that word! Here we’ll draw from our community of Fall Creek Gardens friends who offered to share some ideas about community.
Building neighborhoods with Community Gardens
by Kelli Mirgeaux
Serving as the Mapleton-Fall Creekâs community tool in rebuilding and revitalizing the area, Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation (MFCDC) examines all things that give a place its identity, makes it an attractive place to live, and provides a good quality of life for all its residents. It is our mission to support the needs of the community and work with our residents to bring about positive improvements which benefit the entire area.
One such area of impact is an increased amount of neighborhood gardens in Mapleton-Fall Creek. Community Gardens not only provide health benefits to neighbors with fresh food production, but an opportunity for residents to build new relationships and foster the development of a community spirit and identity. MFCDC has seen momentum in neighborhood groups working together to transform abandoned lots into usable greenspace, ultimately increasing surrounding property values and providing environmental benefits by filtering rainwater and recycling tree trimmings, leaves and other organic wastes back into the soil.
With access to fresh produce right outside their doors and rising food costs elsewhere, residents are also able to save a few dollars while enjoying fresh food they themselves grew. One such example in Mapleton-Fall Creek is the Broadway Community Garden, developed and maintained by passionate residents committed to healthy lifestyles, beautifying their street and building relationships with each other. The group organizes work events such as social gatherings to create a more relaxed and fun environment while still developing and maintaining the garden space in a sustainable manner. Working together, the group has constructed compost bins, planted trees, created signage for the garden, and conducted outreach with residents to increase participation in the garden.
This dedicated group of residents serves as an example for other neighborhood groups as to how you can work together for positive change in your own backyard.
Kelli serves as the communications & outreach coordinator at Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation (http://mfcdc.org/)
Building community the old-fashioned way
by Joyce L. Moore
I remember as a child, many in my neighborhood had back yard gardens and kept chickens. We ate food in season, grown from our gardens, like expectant children at Christmas, waiting for what each growing season would bring next to the table. People did things for themselves because that was the norm and to save money.
Today, ours is a nation of consumers, depending on others for absolutely everything. We eat fresh tomatoes, other vegetables and fruits year round, sourced from all over the world. No longer can I walk to the grocery store because there are none in my neighborhood. Food deserts in urban areas are the norm in our nation and a detriment to our health. Why did this happen and what can I, as an individual, do about this problem? Look to the past for the answer. Our solution, create an environment where we can improve this situation. I, along with my son, Justin, a senior urban planner for the city of New York, created the Urban Patch organization and programs.
Urban Patch began in 2010 and is based in urban Indianapolis metropolitan neighborhoods. As communities move forward and revitalize, it is important they do so with a careful balance of economic, social and environmental considerations. Our goal is to provide part of that balance.
We aim to take an incremental resourceful approach to neighborhood development and urban design. Each step includes an aspect that takes on the built fabric of the city (the urban) and in parallel an aspect addressing the environmental fabric of the city (the patch), incorporating both into the social, economic, and cultural dynamics and considerations that are necessary for a successful and resilient urban community.
The first phase of the Urban Patch has three small projects already initiated, and will be completed by the fall of 2012. The first is the Stone Soup Kitchen Garden, a collaborative and educational urban garden program. The second is the Delaware Project, the preservation/renovation of a historic inner-city home. Both projects are located in the Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhood which is home to a number of cultural, educational, civic institutions, and open spaces.
The “Stone Soup Kitchen Garden,” the educational component, is named after the old fable about collaboration and altruism among people. In such spirit, The Urban Patch – Stone Soup Kitchen Garden is working with both the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation and Fall Creek Gardens: Urban Growers Resource Center to support their comprehensive urban gardening initiatives and programs. It is also a memorial to the legacy of Albert Allen Moore who was the Agricultural Director at the Flanner House in Indianapolis during the late 1940s. This is an important reference to the cultural heritage of Indianapolis African Americans from the Great Migration who helped to settle and develop Indianapolis. The garden and the environment it creates will be an active and visible commemoration of those who are part of an important legacy for urban agriculture, gardening, and community development in our city and beyond.
The third project is a permaculture garden and urban bee farm, to be located on the old home site of Albert A. Moore located at 1045 West 29th Street.
Moving forward, we must do things differently. The foundations of our urban communities have been cracked by several events over time including urban flight and school busing. More recently, the emergence of mega churches and people’s busy electronic lifestyles leave little time for community building through traditional time-tested methods, has augmented that foundation decline. The Community Garden just may be the new frontier, where neighborhood foundations are strengthened, bringing people together to recreate “customary neighborhoods” where people know each other and interact and communicate face to face, energized by community spirit.
Joyce serves as director of Urban Patch (www.urbanpatch.org) and is partnering with Fall Creek Gardens.
by Kay Grimm
Plants are like people. They like to have certain friends they just want to hang with. Their buddies they prefer to grow with help each other to be stronger or by attracting certain insects that would otherwise injure them. Sometimes, like in real life, friendships don’t always return favors. So notice who they don’t like to grow with and that will make for a happy garden.
Download Kay’s companion planting chart CompanionPlantingGuide.pdf.
By growing chemical-free gardens, you are:
- building living soils that will be alive with worms and other helpful micro-organisms. The secret is in the soil.
- growing clean, healthy food for yourself and family. A seed is the first step in a healthy food chain.
- helping our groundwater stay pure and clean.
- protecting our air by keeping it clean.
- recycling waste products by composting, thereby saving valuable greenspace.
- reversing global warming by composting, building good soils, planting cover crops and trees.
- providing wildlife habitats by planting safe and necessary food sources from the worms to the birds.
- encouraging diversity by gardening chemical-free.
- honoring sustainable agriculture which is the foundation of our nation.
- inspiring everyone around you to grow chemical-free to heal our Mother Earth.
Kay is an Indianapolis-area urban farmer, seed saver, Earth-steward, and artist.
Gardening as if …
by Angela Herrmann
â… they shall not plant and another eat …â Isaiah 65:22 (New Revised Standard Version)
How many times have we taken for granted that we can drop by the grocery store to pick up bread, milk, and eggs? Have we considered:
- Where the food originated: locally or thousands of miles away?
- How it was produced: organically or with petroleum-based machines and chemicals?
- Who harvested it: fairly paid farmers or low-paid, non-citizen migrant workers?
As I considered the grocery store and the verse from Isaiah. â… they shall not plant and another eat …,â I wondered about my relationship with the food I eat, those who harvest the food, and the Earth.
Most of the food I eat is planted and harvested by people Iâll never meet. Some people I know couldnât grow a tomato or raise a chicken if their lives depended on it (Iâm not far behind!). Perhaps thatâs what troubled me: what if our lives suddenly depended on our ability to cultivate our own food? Many of us wouldnât survive long!
Which brings me back to the grocery store, a symbol of our profound disconnection with the Earth. We note the passing of seasons, not by changes in weather patterns, plant cycles, or animal behaviors, but instead by sales of chocolate rabbits, scary costumes and artificial trees. Consequently, unprecedented ecological problems, such as water contamination, air pollution, and climate change, seem too big to grasp because we have lost our physical and spiritual connection with the Earth.
What would happen if we learned to grow a tomato or raise a chicken? Is it possible we could learn to reconnect with the Earth and with each other by planting a garden? And what if we planted Community Gardens on the property of churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, or zendos? We could create places where all who speak different languages of faith, but understand the universal language of life, could gather.
In understanding the natural processes on which our lives depend, the Community Garden would be an entry point into an environmental consciousness … a way of thinking globally by acting locally. Planting, harvesting, and eating together would lead to friendships and greater understanding of each otherâs faith traditions. Then together we could begin to deal with the ecological mess our forebears and we have unwittingly created, which will require an unprecedented interfaith effort. Then perhaps the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren is the unconditional abundance of the Earth rather than the prospect of empty grocery store shelves. They deserve nothing less.
Angela is a founder of Fall Creek Gardens. This essay originally appeared in For the Good of the City: A 20th Anniversary Devotional of the Interfaith Alliance Indianapolis and in Branches. Along this theme, she also wrote, Eating Away at the Environment.
Growing roots, tending flowers
by Maggie Goeglein
The only “grandpa” I can remember is Grandpa Wilburt, my motherâs stepfather. Wilburt was a rather crusty old character–the most vivid impression I have of him is the smell of his Old Spice aftershave and the prickly brush of his whiskery cheek on mine when I would give him a hug at the end of one of our infrequent visits.
I remember that … and I remember his roses.
Grandpa Wilburt loved roses. I donât think Grandma ever received the thoughtful treatment that he lavished on his little strip of thorny flowers, but seeing how he tended them taught me a great deal about an otherwise enigmatic man–that he loved beauty, that he had the capacity to nourish a living thing and wait patiently for it to bloom, and that somewhere under the prickles there lurked a soft heart.
More and more we live in an era where our children no longer play freely in nature, and where the eldest members of our society are rarely asked to share their wisdom, experiences, and stories. We are largely unaware of our foodâs provenance and have therefore lost any understanding of the connection between the soil beneath our feet and the items on our dinner plates. With this cultural shift, we are becoming disconnected from some of the most fundamental human activities: providing ourselves with food and caring for the land that we call home.
Recently, I organized a garden for a preschool, and we intentionally chose to have our plot in the Community Garden down the street. Our students learned about garden ecology, and they were most enthusiastic about filling the watering cans from the rain barrels, pulling carrots out of the rich brown soil, and nibbling cherry tomatoes. Whenever other gardeners were present, we made sure to ask what they were growing and get a tour of their plot.
Through our interactions with the other gardeners, my little friends quickly learned to be respectful of the other garden plots, to clean up the tools before returning them to the storage shed, and to ask before tasting produce that wasnât ours. They learned to be proud of their work and show the others what we were doing at our plot. They learned to be good members of this community.
This year, my father turns 80. Dad was very close to his Gramps, and Gramps was the familyâs gardener, maintaining an enormous vegetable patch that overflowed to the table and pantry for most of the year. I grew up listening to stories about Gramps and his wisdom, his kindness–and most of those stories were set in the garden that Gramps loved. Last summer, standing in my garden, Dad surveyed the tomatoes and squash and then looked at me:
Maggie, I look at you, and I see my dear Gramps all over again. I am so proud of you, and I am so glad that you love the earth like he did.
Rooted in my garden, I had found a piece of myself.
Maggie directs Fall Creek Gardens.
Please Bug Me
by Rosie Bishop
Insects and their shy cousins don’t advertise. If they did, we would likely think of “beneficial” and “wasps” as words we cherish together. We would love to see critters scurrying or wiggling in a scoop of soil. We would thank tiny flea-sized creatures for reliable assistance. We would use mulch to offer refuge to many humble workers.
Pesticides are big business and have shaped the thinking of generations. It is the sad fact for gardeners that we hear versions of “If you see a bug, kill it.” For many, the amazing wonders of Nature to nurture healthy crops at no cost to the wallet or the environment is lost. It was such a wonderful revelation to me late in life to learn that helpful critters can be attracted just by growing certain perennials or by appreciating diversity.
The natural diversity and balance of a garden’s inhabitants cannot be attained in a monoculture. A variety of plants will provide a variety of creatures, maintaining balance and preventing any from taking over. Vast stretches of corn or beans or grass will not attract the array of differing creatures that benefit the garden–without any chemical intervention. Picture any woods, prairie or natural area and a varied array of plants can be found, thus a variety of helpful insects. Humans often upset Nature’s balance. DIVERSITY AND BALANCE are two words to take seriously for attracting beneficials.
In the book, Good Bugs for the Garden by Allison Mia Starcher, it is easy to see that the tiniest critters can be the most helpful. One of my favorite tiny bugs, the braconid wasp, a parasitic wasp, is smaller than my little fingernail but puts on a striking show. The female lays her eggs on a large, damaging (but beautiful) critter, the tomato hornworm. Her young attach cocoons to the worm’s body like bits of rice, drawing life from the hornworm, thus saving the juicy tomatoes. A tiny moth–a Super Critter to celebrate!
Tiny describes the larvae of the ladybug. It is so easy for people to brush off little bugs and thus to destroy the helpers who would be partners.
Mulch is a provision we see in Nature that is often disregarded by neatness. Many care more about appearance than the health of gardens. Often that is because of the powerful advertising at work. A “Poison-Perfect Yard” might be the way bugs would advertise! In Nature, plant matter falls to the ground and decays, inviting insects to hide their eggs or find protection while the mulch feeds the soil, warms in winter and cools in summer.
My personal love for butterflies provides a steady diet of insect awe. It is a thrill to watch a pinhead dot on a leaf, the egg, become a colorful caterpillar and in a matter of days fly off to grace the flowers and to pollinate as well. Our kids deserve to experience the magical drama offered by beneficial insects. We can advertise their powerful qualities!
Rosie is a retired school teacher who loves being bugged to talk about beneficial insects.