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S.F. garden to help feed the homeless

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)

Turning scraps into garden compost

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.)

Urban Agriculture Booms in Seattle


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.

Urban Forager | Sweet Violets


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.

Little City Gardens makes a go of urban agriculture in San Francisco


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.

Urban gardens sprouting up in area


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."

How will town's new urban gardens grow?


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.

Community gardening kicks off in northern Chapel Hill

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.

Homeless help design new center

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.

Originally posted to The Miep Channel on Sat May 01, 2010 at 01:41 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  these aren't all articles (28+ / 0-)

    pertaining to specifically working with homeless people in urban gardening, but I think they all illustrate the potential.

    Tips for thinking outside of the box.

    "Drill, Stupid, Drill!." -McJoan

    by Miep on Sat May 01, 2010 at 01:40:10 PM PDT

  •  I'm not homeless, I'm not homeless (10+ / 0-)

    Not bragging but it has been some time since I've had a roof.

    •  hey, how are you? (4+ / 0-)

      You were talking about being gone the other day. Nice to hear from you.

      "Drill, Stupid, Drill!." -McJoan

      by Miep on Sat May 01, 2010 at 01:53:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Trying to adjust and find decent wifi (5+ / 0-)

        the whole situation is overwhelming to me right now. I'll get over it but it is trying.

        •  I don't know anything about wifi (8+ / 0-)

          A friend of mine recently disconnected her internet service, and she wrote me yesterday saying she was so excited because her neighbor had his on, or not blocked?

          Does it cost more if it's not blocked?

          I have no idea how this works. However, if it doesn't cost any more to keep access turned on "off," I'd want to get it and advertise for people to come and hover around my premises, just on general revolutionary principles.

          Oh, here's a link for you; let me go find it. Another friend found me this on Reddit. Great tips for being homeless.

          Okay, I'm going to copy the whole thing, and also provide the link, because I don't know much about how Reddit rolls.


          Practical advise from someone who's lived in a car long-term.


             * Most Wal-Marts let you park overnight for free
             * Rest stops can be good, especially if there is security provided
             * Most National Forests (grasslands, etc.) and Bureau of Land Management properties allow free camping for up to 2 weeks (but no one actually checks..)
             * Church parking lots are usually good
             * Some hotels, especially along the interstate, won't notice if you park overnight. However, some will kick you out at 3 am so it's a craps shoot.
             * Find a place at least an hour before sundown so you're not driving around at night
             * Sleeping in nicer residential neighborhoods will get the cops called on you. Sleeping in bad residential neighborhoods will get you robbed.
             * Bum a place from friends. Join and set your status to "Traveling at the moment."


             * Staying clean is very important. Trust me on this. People trust you more when you're clean and you'll have an easier time spinning yourself as "adventurous" rather than "destitute." More on this later.
             * If you can find a restroom with a lock, you can take a fairly complete bath with a washcloth and a sink.
             * If you can't actually bathe, do a whore's bath once a day. Get some hand sanitizer, the gel with high alcohol content, and rub yourself down, especially in the stinky areas. It won't get you clean per se and the alcohol will dry out your skin, but it'll disinfect you and kill all the smell-causing microorganisms. Follow this with deodorant and baby powder.
             * The easiest way to LOOK clean and safe is to keep your hair and beard trimmed. The simplest and cheapest way to do this is to get some inexpensive hair clippers and clip it short once or twice a week.
             * Dark clothes hide stains. If you can't wash clothes regularly, turn them inside out and place them in direct sunlight to inhibit funk and get that nice outdoorsy smell.
             * Avoid cologne! Masking odors is the enemy. You want to have as neutral a smell as possible. Unkept hair and powerful body odor make it much more difficult to get help from people.
             * Baby wipes are awesome.


             * Libraries! Internet! Search for a job and read books! Keep your mind occupied and hone your intelligence.
             * Parks, especially dog parks, are great places for meeting people
             * If you find yourself in a hobo camp, like the ones that crop up in national forests and BLM camp sites, if you can make a hot cup of coffee you will have both friends and (more importantly) people to watch your back. It's as simple as Wal-Mart-->camp stove-->stovetop coffee maker. Take creamers and sugar from gas stations and the like. Oh yeah, it doesn't hurt to have 5-10 gallons of water in your car, especially if you're away from a city.
             * If you maintain yourself, and you look clean and safe, you'll have an easy time convincing people that you're adventurous rather than destitute. Adventurous gets you much farther than destitute, because secretly (or not so secretly) a lot of people our age want exactly what you have--The freedom of the road, no responsibility, time to write and reflect, no obligations, nothing but days and weeks to focus on yourself. Being destitute might get you a dollar or a cup of coffee. Being adventurous might get you in a pretty girl's bed, or better yet, a hot shower..
             * Go to where the young people are and mix it up once in a while. You'll fit right in as long as you stay clean and pretty. The easiest way back into the game is through a social network, so work on building a strong one.
             * Always, always be on the bounce. Keep an eye peeled for opportunities. Don't let the massive chasm of unencumbered time overwhelm you. Have a project for EVERY SINGLE DAY. Make a plan and stay clean, because as fun as it is to tramp around for a while, you don't want to do this forever.

          I hope this helps, buddy. In all likelihood, you won't have to use 99% of what I've mentioned, buuuut you never know. Top priority for you, my friend, is take care of yourself. Decide RIGHT NOW and TODAY that this will only be temporary. Mourn the loss of what you had, but remind yourself every single day that this is a BEGINNING, not an end. Focus on putting one foot in front of the other and I guarantee that you will find yourself in a better place.

          Edit: I made an AMA because a lot of you have questions and I don't want to hijack OP's thread.

          Edit 2: Reconchrist, we love you too.

          Edit 3: To all Redditors reading this: You guys (and gals) really show your class when you support each other, especially when you rally around someone hurting as deeply as OP. I got to know a lot of tired, sick and broken homeless dudes while traveling and so many of them started off exactly the same way as the OP. It seemed obvious to me that if they'd only had a community to turn to back then, they probably wouldn't be in such a bad situation now. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Who knows what will become of this, but I am convinced that with your support of OP, you have all done tangible good today.

          Well, and how about that, too?

          People do care. I see that more than anything else on the Internet, I swear. People do freakin' care.

          "Drill, Stupid, Drill!." -McJoan

          by Miep on Sat May 01, 2010 at 02:11:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Gandhian Gardening (10+ / 0-)
    from Thursday, 18 June 2009

    I also spoke to another migrant worker, Wu Xijun, outside Guangzhou railway station last December.

    His situation also explains why unemployed migrant workers - farmers who leave their homes for work in the cities - have largely remained quiet.
    Most villagers in China are given a small plot of land to farm, and many migrant workers returned to these plots when they lost their jobs.

    This has kept them off the city streets where they could gather and protest - and gives them an income so they can feed their families.

    This is what Mr Wu has done. He now relies on planting crops and raising pigs.

    "Life is tough, but migrant workers can survive," said Prof Cheng.
    Of course disputes - or "mass incidents" as the government likes to call them - continue to take place in China.

    Just this week taxi drivers staged a strike in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, because of a dispute about operating rights.

    But these are mostly about local issues that have not yet threatened the stability of China or its government.

    The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
    NY:  Berkley Publishing Corp, 1961

    (80)  One thing that probably could be done and certainly ought to be done as a matter of course, is to give every unemployed man a patch of ground and free tools if he chose to apply for them.  It is disgraceful that men who are expected to keep alive on the P. A. C. [Public Assistance Committee] should not even have the chance to grow vegetables for their families.

    This is part of what Gandhi meant by swadeshi, or local production.

    You can fix all the world's problems in a garden

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Sat May 01, 2010 at 01:53:37 PM PDT

  •  Meip, love anything about urban gardening. (6+ / 0-)

    That you have documented and compiled a nice list of activity around the country is great work.

    I would like to add eKos to your tags.  All things art, philosophy, science, research, activism about eco/enviro/conservation are newly indexed on a hopefully regular feature eKos Earthship.

    Thank you.

    "Never, desist till we ... extinguish this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, will scarce believe that it suffered a disgrace and dishonor to this country.

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Sat May 01, 2010 at 02:26:22 PM PDT

  •  This year with my Territorial seed orders (6+ / 0-)

    I received an extra packet of seeds marked "plant a row for the homeless".

    Nice idea -- poor execution.  They were carrot seeds and I don't grow carrots (nor would I have use for 2 packs of carrots, as my orders came in two shipments!); nor do I have space for growing carrots.  Would have been nice if they would have looked at what I had ordered (snap peas, potatoes) and sent an extra packet of something similar.

    However... somehow I did end up ordering one too many packs of snap peas of a variety I generally don't plant from Pine Tree Garden Seeds.  Since I had far too many seedlings, I planted a row of snap peas across the very front of my front-yard beds.  The Mister loves the idea; I did it as an experiment to see if your typical urban dweller would go ahead and pick the peas and eat them.  Most people have assumed they're sweet peas, so I dunno what's going to happen.

    But I'm pretty sure I'm going to put a cherry tomato vine in one corner when it's time to plant out -- it can hang over the edge, too and just be whacked back when it hits the sidewalk.

    Evil is making the premedicated choice to be a dick -- Jason Stackhouse

    by Frankenoid on Sat May 01, 2010 at 02:46:19 PM PDT

    •  well, that's silly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Regina in a Sears Kit House

      Plant a row for the homeless? How about "Let's start up a non-profit to buy seed to donate to urban gardens?"

      Ya gotta watch out for the hypes.

      Nobody ever seems to pick my vegetables when they get out of my chain link fence border of my 1/4 acre yard. I've always thought that was kind of odd. Maybe it's worth blogging about.

      I've had tomatoes, peppers get out there. I've walked by grape vines on other chain link fences, replete with grapes.

      Maybe the best way would be to put up signs? "Please feel free to pick this fruit, and if you have any extra of your own, I'm here!"

      Thanks for writing, Frankenoid. A pleasure to hear from you.

      "Drill, Stupid, Drill!." -McJoan

      by Miep on Sat May 01, 2010 at 02:51:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  A lot of people can't recognize familiar (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Predictor, DawnN, Miep

      foods on the plant. It's actually very sad and scary. I see tons of people every year who are scared to pick blueberries because they aren't sure it's the right plant. (Lots of wild blueberries are black rather than blue.) So many people are plain afraid of plants, too.

      If I were your neighbor, I'd definitely be picking the peas and tomatoes. I might even ask first. But if there's a particularly nice one dangling over the sidewalk... well, that's public property. :)

      Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

      by wide eyed lib on Sat May 01, 2010 at 04:42:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  thank you. :) (5+ / 0-)

    always love positive news affecting people and environment.

    Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Sat May 01, 2010 at 03:29:37 PM PDT

  •  I'm excited that Slow Food OC (4+ / 0-)

    is expecting to start doing some service work in the fall for local food banks.  :)  This is good stuff, thanks for sharing it all.

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