Close Up on a Community Garden

I was surprised to hear the words coming from his mouth only because they were so similar to words that I had used a week earlier in blogging about my community. “There is so much bad news in the world, that it’s great to have this garden – this is good.” Here I was in Miami Beach, FL seeking a good story and here was a good story and someone who feels exactly as I do telling it.

Victory Garden

 

This is one of the few spots East of the Mississippi where there is no snow right now. And, I was here to meet up with wonderful friends who each came from a different direction. Miami beach is both hip and tranquil. You can find an abundance of hot spots or a still zen setting or in the case of Agrigirl, you can seek out community.

The Joseph J. Vallari Victory Garden is a community garden dedicated to the memory of the men and women who were stationed in training camps in Miami Beach during WWII. The garden is under the jurisdiction of the City of Miami Parks and Recreation but operates under the care of a dedicated team of community volunteers.  I reached out to one of those volunteers, Jerome Duran, via the Victory Garden facebook page.

Jerome Duran, Victory Garden Community Board Member

Their garden has about 50 plots and for the first time in a while, it is full thanks to the volunteers who take this endeavor seriously. One of the biggest issues is that many people see their plot as an extension of private property. Hence, if there is an individual who is letting weeds go rampant or not using best planting practices, it’s often difficult to achieve resolution. One thing that Jerome and his comrades have found that works well is the idea of a buddy system. When someone is struggling, they are paired up with someone else who understands basic gardening principles.

The second Saturday of each month is a community work-day where weeds are picked, marigolds are dead-headed and general clean-up takes place. The marigold seeds are spread in boxes throughout in order to act as natural pest repellants. They cultivate worms for sharing and harvest rainwater although their current configuration of pulling rainwater in from one of the nearby roofs may in fact, bring about too much salt – given their proximity to the ocean. Wind and salt are elements that this group has to combat as both are soil drying.

Jerome has been gardening long enough to know what grows well and what doesn’t. He’s also zeroed in on the importance of soil preparation and works his frequently. And during the time that he’s been a participant in this garden, he’s noticed a change. People are hanging out at the garden. In fact, he views it as so central to his community that he’s working to get benches and picnic tables installed.  In addition, he’s planted fruit trees around the garden that he’s hoping will have a future yield. Most importantly, Jerome eats from his garden every day and has such an abundance in his plot that he gives fresh produce to friends and neighbors.

The USDA has a wealth of resources for individuals or neighborhoods that are interested in exploring the Community Garden concept. As evidenced in Miami Beach, Community gardens can beautify neighborhoods and have the power to help bring neighbors closer together. As the Desert Botanical Garden explores a Community Gardening Initiative this year, I’m interested in learning more.

Do you have a community garden where you live or is it a concept that you might explore in the future?

Leave a comment

103 Comments

  1. This is inspiring! There are lots of community gardens in Boston but I haven’t heard of any with such a strong emphasis on community.

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  2. A very good project. (btw; your top two pics aren’t showing.)

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  3. authorjaneward

     /  January 19, 2011

    Hi Myrna, I’m also from the Boston area. Hi to you, too, Tammy. A friend works for a social service organization in the city that, last summer, launched a community garden as part of their efforts to provide food and industry for the people they work with. I’ll have to find the name and location of the garden and pass it along. It’s fledgling but a solid idea.

    Of course, this is also a way to nudge Agrigirl into a New England road trip!

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  4. That’s great! I could use a gardening buddy-system.

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  5. What a great story! Your photos are wonderful, and are making me long for springtime so that I can get started on my garden again!

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  6. I have heard of this, and we have somewhat of a community garden, which is grown and tended to by the neighboring Hutterite colonies. For the most part, however, people around here have their own gardens.

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  7. I really love the concept and the meaning behind the garden! Thanks for sharing.

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  8. We have a few public schools in our district that have started a community garden — what a great lesson for young children!

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  9. Ditto herbanlifestyle! I cannot wait to start my own garden. I am determined to get most of our produce this year, and every year, from our backyard.

    We live too far from a community garden (I checked after I read your post). Maybe I can start one in my neighborhood. It’s huge! We have two schools and a fire department, all brand new. I’m gonna research how to get one started.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  10. Very inspiring read and a wonderful example of a comminuty spirit. The idea of a buddy system is a fabulous one. This is my “good news story” of the day!

    Reply
  11. humanitarikim

     /  January 19, 2011

    I wish we had something like this in my community. I am so ready for spring, also! Can’t wait to get my hands back into the earth. :)

    Reply
  12. This sounds like a wonderful program. I like the idea of pairing of newbie with someone who is knowledgable, makes the experience more productive. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

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  13. I visited a community garden and long beach and the caretaker explained how all the plants were meant to represent the different types of communities that live in that area. So there were African plants, Latin American plants, etc. The garden was symbol of the community coming together and doing something positive. It was very inspiring and the first time that I realized how powerful gardening was–as a healing tool.

    Reply
    • That’s a great concept. Do you remember where in Long Beach? We all typically think of vegetable gardens but what you’re describing is another take on a community garden.

      Reply
  14. I love to have a garden. My garden last year did not do very good. Too much rain. I have since move to Arizona and live in an Apartment. I miss Florida and the wonderful veggies I can buy and grow there.

    Reply
  15. @agrigirl:

    Let me introduce ourselves. We are Global Visionaries, a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Seattle, WA.

    We are a youth leadership organization dedicated to providing high school students with training and service projects to help make them the future leaders of our world.

    One of our work team projects is called “Local Roots,” where we teach our students the basics of sustainable agriculture. When I stumbled upon your blog, I was immediately intrigued.

    We do not have a community garden of our own, but it is definitely something we can explore in the future.

    Reply
  16. Very uplifting start to my day Tammy

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  17. i live in a condo development, and youve inspired me to pitch a community garden to our board next meeting, thanks!

    Reply
  18. Hi Tammy:

    This is a great idea, inspired and new to me, I’ll admit. :-) Thank you for adding a colorful garden of words to the canvas of our day!

    Reply
  19. What a fantastic read! I haven’t heard of any community gardens here in Canberra, but it might be time to start asking around and finding out…

    Reply
  20. What an amazing story and I really appreciate you bringing this GOOD news to us! I tend not to watch the news at all because its either bad or gossip. Now THIS is news worth reporting on! THANK YOU!

    Reply
  21. Great post. I also agree, your post is very inspiring. I live in Michigan and would love to have something like this, including indoor capabilities for our below freezing winters.

    Good luck on the Post a Week goal for the year.

    Reply
  22. Awesome!

    Glad that you enjoyed your trip to the Sunshine State. Maybe we can hook up next time. :)

    Reply
  23. julieye

     /  January 19, 2011

    My mother is also a gardener. She cultivated of good plants. She can grow a lot of plants in the garden.

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  24. Congratulations, by the way, for making it onto the WordPress Freshly Pressed page! It’s a testament to your wonderful blogging!

    Reply
  25. You maybe interested to know that City of Vancouver, British Columbia, surpassed their goal of 2,500 community gardens. http://insidevancouver.ca/2010/03/31/touring-vancouver%e2%80%99s-community-gardens-by-cycling-or-walking/ They originally set a goal of 2, 010 gardens to coincide with the 2010 Winter Olympics.

    By coincidence and happenstance the city’s community gardens are located near city bike routes. There’s even a map that twin the 2 together for self-guided tours.

    I like your template..like mine. :)

    Reply
    • Great resource Jean. Thank you. I didn’t know about Vancouver but I’m not surprised. I want to visit this summer so that I can see it for myself.

      Reply
      • There is a series of community gardens created in late 2009, on the front lawn of Vancouver city hall that is right by a bike route, Tammy.

        The mayor declared that the front lawn be put to better use.

        He used to be a farmer, then health food entrepreneur (Happy Planet drinks) before he became mayor. He bikes to city hall daily for work from home.

        Reply
  26. Thanks for the article on community gardening, I’m looking forward to participating in one myself once I finish a master gardener course I’m taking!

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  27. Congratulations for highlighting this important topic. I have also been writing about various ways people can garden – indoors and out – often regardless of season.

    My city has some CSA plots, but not nearly as many as are requested. I think some carefully-chosen areas in public parks should also be commandeered.

    My city just did a tiny bit of that and some are not near bus lines. One is near a community center, but they didn’t have a large enough block to do all they should have, so many useful gardening options won’t be able to be applied there. These gardens are NEEDED now more than ever and should always be a part of real City Planning. There’s lots of fallow land, any where, that could be connected to water and put into production. Time to advocate.

    Nearby Portland, OR has a better, much longer-established program, and they are worth tapping for information.

    Best to all — Em

    http://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com

    Reply
  28. it’s really a very good project, thanks for sharing.

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  29. What a great “good news” story! Interesting and exciting post!

    Reply
  30. Sarah Hanlon

     /  January 19, 2011

    I’m so glad you brought a topic like this to light. Community projects like gardens and markets don’t get the press they deserve, which means they lose business all the time. In this era we think everything just appears on grocery shelves… we’ve lost touch with our need to respect the earth and realize that food actually takes work to create.

    Awesome post! :D

    Reply
  31. This is such a wonderful thing. I’d love to do this. I’m not sure I would be able to organize it for the community but it might be worth trying…

    Reply
    • I think there are some guides and good information about what works and what doesn’t so it won’t be as hard as it was for others.

      Reply
  32. A very fine idea and a very fine story. Thank you.

    Reply
  33. Gardening is such a wonderful thing to do as a community. Grow food, share, love. Mmmm.

    Reply
    • It is a good thing to do but I don’t think it’s as easy as many think. That’s why I’m seeking out stories of those who are successful at it.

      Reply
  34. I walk past small farms/allotments every day wishing I had the space/knowledge to do it myself. At the moment we have some fennel, broccoli, spring onions and herbs growing in pots on our roof terrace, it’s very exciting! It just makes me want to do more. I was thinking about asking someone who doesn’t use their land if they would let us plant some seedlings and they could share in the harvest….Congrats on your front page by the way, well done!

    Reply
  35. Brandon

     /  January 20, 2011

    This is a very inspiring post Tammy and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    It seems that in this tough economic time a community garden is a great way to bring people together for a productive purpose that improves the community.

    The township I currently live in has a community garden that is available to all residents through a random-drawing lottery system. The plots are about 20’ x 20’ and there are about 50 plots to go around. Unfortunately, I have yet to be able to participate in the program.

    Reply
    • That is a downside. So, two thoughts I have for you are; see if you can talk with a plot holder about sharing. Or, second, see if you can find available space somewhere else. Someone told me that they find a space at a church. Just a thought and thanks for reading.

      Reply
  36. I don’t have a community garden where I live, but I find it an interesting idea. I live in a tight-knit community, where everyone is friends, and we all know when someone needs help. If someone does need help, we come together and give them all the support they need. Starting a community garden can really help bring the community together in a common venture, and it can also help build community and team spirit, because the venture is a team effort.
    Ashley, aka TheEverydayMuser

    http://www.theeverydaymuser.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • I think it can be a great thing but think ground rules (ha!) are very important. There are good guides out there so if you decide to pursue, follow the links to the resources.

      Reply
  37. Sally Mom

     /  January 20, 2011

    Absolutely love this post. I am reinspired. Some friends and me have been talking of doing just this idea. Older ladies, all needing help and wanting to continue to grow our own healthy food. So we found the spot, we just need some sun!
    Thanks Tammy!

    Reply
  38. I’ve always loved the idea of a community garden! It’s such a great way for people to share in a hobby and to allow those who don’t have the spacefor their own garden to still do some gardening. Unfortunately, Italy doesn’t have anything like that that I know of (at least not in Milan).

    Nice post!

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  39. Hi Tammy,
    Just came across your blog. I’ve mentioned you on my latest post:

    http://robinmullet.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1078&action=edit

    We just had a great time at a community showing of the movie “Fresh” and your post of this community garden fits right in with the theme. It can done. Thanks for this post and I look forward to following you.

    Reply
  40. We have two very successful community gardens here in my town (NH). The newest one was created specially for our large refugee community and the organizers are learning a whole new world of gardening from these gardeners. And, as apartment dwellers, they’re so grateful to have a little plot of land to grow food on. It’s been hugely successful. I hope to work in a post on them this summer.

    Reply
    • I have heard that some gardens are working well for refugees. I’m sure that it is so nice for them to have some land. I look forward to your post.

      Reply
  41. Tracey

     /  January 20, 2011

    Congratulations on being featured on Freshly Pressed!

    Reply
  42. I would definitely get involved in a community garden! It sounds like fun, and a good way to learn more about how and when food grows, as well as meeting people with similar interests!

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  43. Wow, Tammy, the number of comments on this post really attests to the power of the (community) garden! It heartens me to read about this on the icy day in Tennessee—It will be a while before we can plant! But this is the time to plan.

    As we move into spring, I’ll blog about my friend’s Wedgewood Urban Garden–where she took bought up adjoining blighted properties and has turned a funky area into a producing garden oasis. I love seeing crummy urban spots returned to natural beauty, especially when they produce fruits and vegetables. In fact, Everybody loves it.

    Reply
    • I can’t wait to hear about it. And this post was fortunate enough to be Freshly Pressed – hence the number of comments.

      Reply
  44. Kath (Eating for Living)

     /  January 21, 2011

    A community garden is such a wonderful idea! Generally I find that gardening is wonderful. It not only soothens the mind, but also gives you a feeling of connection with nature and the natural rhythms of growing and withering (again). I am dreaming to have a garden and grow herbs and vegetables one day! It doesn’t even have to be big, my dad grows a lot of different vegetables on a few squaremeters, mostly in pots at the roofgarden and in his little greenhouse.

    I live in a courtyard community with around 10 tenants (families, students, young adults, and old ladies), and the courtcard is for everybody to share. We grow wine and flowers, but no vegetables and share the work. It’s a nice beginning. :)

    Reply
  45. When you speak of a Victory Garden, I think of the African women in the ghettos outside of Cape Town, South Africa, who have put together garden plots so they can grow their own food, improve nourishing intake and teach others in their community. The pride of the women as we marveled over their results and asked questions was very moving.

    I’m a Canadian Prairie kid who grew up knowing we had endless locations where we could grow food. Hearing what these women went through to cultivate a dozen garden plots was pivotal for me.

    They also reminded me of how much I’ve forgotten and how simple it would be to get back to growing more of my own food.

    Thanks, Tammy, for writing this great blog.

    Reply
  46. Love this, there are several community gardens near us. What I really love are the schools that have gardens where the kids grow the veggies they eat. For some, this is the first exposure to where their food comes from and it can be a revelation.

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  47. Oh how gorgeous! Way to go, Jerome, & thanks for sharing this inspiring story, Tammy! Makes me want to rush out and get my hands dirty :-D

    Reply
  48. touristjapan

     /  February 1, 2011

    I can’t wait to hear about it. And this post was fortunate enough to be Freshly Pressed – hence the number of comments.

    Reply
  49. Wonderful blog and project, Tammy, thanks for sharing your enthusiasm. Community gardens are popular over here, small green oases in the center of some cities or in the outskirts. Both peaceful and busy places where people of all cultures meet and get to know one another, share their experiences in gardening.

    Reply
  50. Tanner

     /  February 24, 2011

    I really think we should start on those agrigirl packets they would be so cool!!!!!!

    Reply
  51. I’ve always thought a community garden is such a good idea! For people living in the city without the space, it is a great way to relax and enjoy some gardening that may not be suitable or allowed on a balcony!

    I wish we had them here in Milan…

    Reply
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