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.
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.
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?