Jeff Greene, an out-of-work engineer who would be homeless if not for a room in a residential hotel paid for by the city, grabbed a shovel Friday afternoon and began digging holes in a patch of dirt in Hayes Valley.
Greene, 45, was helping plant an urban fruit orchard along Octavia Boulevard on land once under the shadow of a freeway ramp.
His volunteer labor was used to help launch a nationwide project dubbed "Communities Take Root" in which fruit trees will be planted in 25 more communities across the United States to bring fresh and nutritious foods to the poor and others in need.
(also at Right of Assembly)
It's about 4:30 p.m., and the staff at Irene's Cafe in Fresno, Calif., knows to expect a food pickup. But this isn't a typical order. Instead, it's a bucket filled with food waste - French fries, lemon slices, pickles and pasta covered in sauce.
Grant McDougald sets the bucket on a trailer attached to his bicycle. Then it's off to Starbucks to pick up coffee grounds. A stop at Piemonte's Italian Delicatessen yields scraps such as tomato, lettuce and parsley. And a visit to Panaderia Natalie nets a bucket full of eggshells.
Launching such a garden requires a lot of labor and time. Boujikian says she and two of her roommates each work in the garden about 40 hours a week. They live at the center, a rundown house they're slowly renovating into a resource for homeless people. (Kincaid, the center's namesake, was a homeless activist who died in 2007.)
Driven by a passion seen all over town, from burgeoning P-Patches to residents cultivating forsaken bits of soil, Seattle's officials have declared 2010 the Year of Urban Agriculture. With parking strips sprouting raised beds, productive gardens replacing lawns, and even a "dating" service called Urban Garden Share that matches up landless gardeners with those willing to share, Seattle has taken Michelle Obama's message of grow your own to heart. Even hipster-cool Seattle's Central Community College is offering a popular program on sustainable urban agriculture.
It doesn't really matter whether the food gardening renaissance is driven by do-it-yourself frugality in a time of economic uncertainties, or concern over food safety and the environment. Its joys are tangible and delicious; stepping out your back door to pick a dinner you grew from a couple of seed packets is viscerally satisfying. And not just Seattleites are replacing roses with rhubarb and hedging with blueberries. More than 41 million households in the U.S. grew a vegetable garden last year, meaning that a remarkable 38% of the population tended and harvested their own fresh food.
I was recently at Greene Acres Community Garden in Bedford-Stuyvesant, giving a group of enthusiastic gardeners a tour of edible weeds, when I couldn’t help noticing a lovely patch of violets crouching along the edges of a soil bed. Like many of the city’s flowering plants, including dandelions, cherry blossoms and magnolias, wild violets appeared super early this year. Though many folks were unaware that the violets were edible, this group of urban gardeners hungrily nibbled on the delicate flowers that I passed around.
Violets, a k a Viola sororia or papilionacea, can be found throughout the East Coast in fields and along roadsides, and across the five boroughs, in backyards, parking lots and yes, even in former-brownstone plots of land transformed into lush community gardens. Each spring, the delicate bluish-purple flowers emerge — shaped like butterflies on low-hanging heads, as if to conceal their white-and-orange-bearded center — on single stems among masses of heart-shaped leaves that uncurl fan-like from the center.
Both leaves and flowers are edible, and make a fine addition to any salad. They can also be sugared, with sufficient care, and strewn atop a cake.
Can two people earn a living wage growing and selling produce within the city of San Francisco? This is the question that Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway set out to answer when they launched Little City Gardens in the Mission District of San Francisco. Armed with a commitment to urban gardening, a business plan and high hopes, but free of any pretensions that the answer to their question would be a resounding "yes," Budner and Galloway are taking Little City Gardens to the next level. That is, with a little help from the global community.
With the turn of a few shovels Thursday, the City of Westland took another step toward being an increasingly ‘green’ community that gives back to people in need.
The city partnered with DTE Energy and Gleaner’s Community Food Bank on a community garden located at the back of the DTE property off Cherry Hill Road.
"This is another example of why Westland has become known as one of Michigan’s greenest cities," said Mayor Bill Wild. "The DTE garden will not only bring residents together in an effort to enhance our environment, it will subsequently grow fresh food for those who need it most."
During World War II, people grew their own produce in so-called Victory Gardens. That practice is making a comeback in Millvale, with the help of Allegheny County's Allegheny Grows program.
Flowers and vegetables soon will sprout from ground cleared of homes after flooding in 2004 from Hurricane Ivan. Two now-vacant lots on Butler Street are part of an urban gardening and beautification project called the Gardens of Millvale, funded by grants and donations and supported by the Millvale Borough Development Corporation. The land was donated by the borough. The project, which will start with six plots of land, will create urban gardens where residents can learn about and grow their own food and flowers, said Eddie Figas, Millvale's Main Street manager.
CHAPEL HILL -- More than 125 people attended a ribbon cutting this weekend for HOPE Gardens, a different kind of community gardening space on Homestead Road in northern Chapel Hill.
About half the space is an urban farm. Volunteers and three part-time workers who are homeless, have been homeless or at risk of homelessness are already growing beans, lettuce and mustard in neat rows.
Money from sales on campus and to local restaurants will pay the workers an $80 weekly stipend and will be used to maintain and expand the garden.
GREENSBORO — One block from The Depot, the new day center for the homeless, due to open in mid-October, will be a place to rest and stay warm, shower, wash clothes, get a haircut, look for work.
Also included will be a small feature — but a big deal — for people who walk the streets after night shelters close, carrying their belongings, getting stares from library patrons, fast-food diners and motorists.
What’s the big deal? It’s the two rows of little squares lining part of an architect’s floor plan of the new day center: They mark where the men’s and women’s lockers will be.
Two Saturdays back, gardening teams organized by businesses and community groups planted vegetables in the right-of-way along busy Murrow Boulevard.
The result will be a large edible garden that homeless guests will both work and harvest. And with 60 volunteers working the soil, using donated materials, plants, rations and supplies, Seymour reflected on what had become IRC’s "Stone Soup" model for funding, borrowed from the preschool tale.
"This whole garden project cost us ..." she hesitated and thought a moment. "Well ... I bought some soap for the bathrooms. Actually, no money changed hands."
Well, how about that?
Happy May Day, everybody.