If We Build It…
Urban gardening gathers steam
with upcoming Lexington summit
Since 1865 an agrarian Union has been changed into an industrial empire bent on conquest of the earth’s goods and ports to sell them in. This means warfare, a struggle over markets, leading, in the end, to actual military conflict between nations. But in the meantime, the terrific effort to manufacture ammunition -that is, wealth-so that imperialism may prevail, has brought upon the social body a more deadly conflict, one which promises to deprive it, not of life, but of living and turn the pursuit of happiness into a nervous running-around which is without the logic, even, of a dog chasing its tail. -Andrew Lytle, “The Hind Tit” in I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition
Kentucky’s tradition, though richly agrarian, has not always done a great job of integrating the best aspects of rural culture into urban settings. But a team of urban gardening advocates in Lexington are working to change that.
Matt John, project director of Kentucky Grow (The Kentucky Gardening for Recreation or Work Project introduces individuals with physical, sensory, and mental disabilities to horticulture and gardening), will be speaking about this at the upcoming Summit (Aug 5), “The fellowship of getting your hands dirty and working in the soil with others in your neighborhood has been lost in many communities and hopefully this spirit of cooperation can be revived in Lexington. Establishing community gardens is not a difficult task and there are plenty of resources available in this community to assist with beginning on any level.”
John would make Wendell Berry proud when he says, “By soliciting input from all of the members of a community, the appropriate plants and crops can be grown to meet the needs of all. Many older adults grew up raising heirloom varieties of vegetables and are very familiar with ‘organic’ controls for garden pests. Younger members of the community can learn a great deal and discover what a fresh picked, ripe off the vine tomato tastes like versus the ‘cardboard’ gas ripened kind they have been accustomed to.”
Bruce Burris (of Latitude, and Radical B.U.G.S) recounts the origins of today’s local movement, “Our current push to establish a true community garden/s grew from the idea of a Latitude participant well over a year ago. Chris Heidgerd wasn’t sure-but he thought he might like to try gardening. Since Latitude was/is renting space without access to soil, we searched the neighborhood and asked our neighbors if we might have a corner of a parking lot, a slice of overgrown yard, etc. on which to grow a small garden. We discovered soon enough that this approach would not work. So Chris and I began to research the community garden idea. In the meantime Chris began his own small business, ‘The Big Green Machine.’ Chris, working with Latitude and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, began to develop a small business which would enable him to sell his handmade ‘green greeting’ cards at businesses such as Third St. Stuff. Among other things we set up a system so that Chris could grow vegetables and sell them to places like Bistro 147.”
“Still we were gardenless,” he recalls of the early days. Then a local retailer encouraged the group to put a small garden in her yard, which they did while they “advocated for the next step. Latitude’s garden is there-as well as gardens tended by neighbors such as Garrett French-in reality-it may be the world’s smallest community garden-but hah! By definition it is a community garden!”
Others have been quick to support and laud the movement. Kris Kimel (the man behind the Idea Festival, who will also speak at the summit) says, “The art park and community garden are important developments in Lexington’s ongoing quest to expand it’s ‘creative culture.’ It has become increasingly clear that areas that are diverse, high energy, and offer a multiplicity of creative experiences for its people are the ones that will prosper and thrive in the years ahead.”
Burris is pragmatic in his approach, realizing that the productive use of community space also satisfies a city’s capitalist impulses, by creating a citizenry of “investors.” As he puts it, “Community space such as murals and gardens offer all of us a share in the use and look of downtown space.”
Van Meter Pettit, President of Town Branch Trail, echoes this sentiment, adding “urban gardens can be used to engender a sense of ownership in a public setting where graffiti, vandalism, petty theft, and low rates of home ownership all conspire to degrade an urban neighborhood. Woodward Heights provides a good example with its public flower beds.”
Burris concludes, “For too long Lexington has left these decisions/opportunities to appointed panels, politicians, and developers. What these folks have yet to realize is that a bustling, diverse downtown, a downtown that by the way they will benefit financially from–occurs when everyone feels they have a stake in a downtown they see as their own.”
ArtPark Dedication &
Community Garden Summit
Tuesday August 5th, 2003 5:15- 6:30pm: Parking lot and outdoor patio of Third Street Stuff and Atomic Café (257 N. Limestone Street, Lexington)
ArtPark Dedication: (5:15- 5:30pm) parking lot of Third Street Stuff
The ArtPark Project (community murals) was begun over a year ago, as collaboration between Latitude (an arts based, community organization working with people thought to have disabilities) and Third Street Stuff. Since that time four other organizations, including Metro Group Homes, have created murals in the immediate area.
Mayor Teresa Isaac, Vice Mayor Mike Scanlon, and Pat Gerhard of Third Street Stuff will thank participants of both Latitude and Metro Group Homes.
Community Garden Summit: (5:30- 6:30pm) patio of Atomic Cafe
The ArtPark Dedication and Community Garden Summit are two small, but important components related to downtown livability. Last year, a participant at Latitude mentioned that he would like to try his hand at gardening, but though space was plentiful, a landowner willing to share a slice of overgrown yard or a corner of a parking lot could not be found. Radical B.U.G.S (Building Urban Garden Spaces) was established to assess the interest in Community Gardening. The Community Garden Summit is an event designed to bring together a group of folks with shared interests and vision.
Speakers include: Kris Kimel (Kentucky Science and Technology Center, IdeaFestival), Rhonda Reeves (editor, Ace Weekly), Harold Tate (Executive Director, Downtown Development Authority), Van Meter Petit (Town Branch Trail), Matt John (Kentucky GROW), Jim Clark (President and CEO LACC).
Information tables include: Latitude LLC, Goodwill Industries, The Carnegie Center, Town Branch Trail, Ace Weekly, Metro Group Home, AVOL, Kentucky GROW.
Info: Bruce Burris, Latitude