Dig It. Community Gardening Takes Root in Lexington by Jim Embry 07.24.2008

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View PDF page 6 ACE Weekly July 24, 2008
Dig It. Community Gardening Takes Root in Lexington—take the Tour

by JIM EMBRY

Everyone is invited and encouraged to join the emerging Lexington community gardening movement. Get your hands in the dirt…..grow food in your back and front yard….meet your neighbors….talk to your kids….find your soul.

“Since the E. coli scare with spinach and salmonella with tomatoes, people are making connections that most all of food is coming from one place,” commented Bruce Mundy of the Teen Center who has been engaging youth in gardening for many years in Lexington’s east end.“ By raising our food locally (and how local is your own backyard?) then we avoid these troublesome food scares and reclaim our community…one plot at a time. Community gardens are a great place to involve our youth. Students from Martin Luther King Academy have worked in the Nelson Ave. garden, got their hands dirty and did not want to leave. Youth offenders assigned by the drug court have worked in the Winburn Garden and found a greater sense of community and responsibility.
“Gardens are a way to restore our youth and our community.” Ryan Koch of Seedleaf, an avid gardener, sees the importance of growing produce personally, and advocates the use of corner lots, church grounds and other open spaces for gardens. He sees the Lexington Community Garden Tour as a good way to raise awareness, educate and hopefully build enthusiasm for using community plots as sources of food… for the body and mind.

“Most people don’t really realize how many community gardens there really are,” said Ryan, noting that the garden behind Al’s Bar is one of Lexington’s best kept secrets and could become a model for other local restaurants.
What is a community garden?
Community gardens transform empty lots into green, living spaces. They are collaborative projects created by members of the community; residents share in both the maintenance and rewards of the garden. There are an estimated 10,000 community gardens within U.S. cities. During WW I and WWII community gardens called Victory Gardens were promoted by the government, seen as vital to national security and provided 40% of the food needs of the country. This historical link with gardens has served recently as an inspiration to many communities.

In comparison to cities like Seattle, Boston, Detroit and even San Francisco, Lexington is lagging in the community gardens department. We’re pretty far behind in terms of gardens per capita and support from the local government, but there’s lots of energy and momentum here. Gardening can help recharge urban energy and is a way to approach people about surface water issues, and educate people about not using pesticides.
The Community Garden Tour is a way to connect the kernels of corn and the people who are involved around the city. We want to raise awareness of safe gardening practices, as well as the positive outcome gardening with other members of the community can have. The simple act of planting a garden can create positive environmental, economic, and social impacts on a neighborhood. Community gardens foster cultural understanding and an awareness of the environment around us. Children eat more fruits and vegetables as a result of participation in gardens, are more likely to try new foods and initiate discussions regarding eating habits at home and confirm the garden’s value as a learning environment.
Although community gardens are primarily used by people who don’t have access to their own gardens, they can also be a good networking opportunity for those who do have their own gardening space at home.

JOIN US
The 2008 Lexington Community Garden Tour begins at 5:30pm at La Roca and the buses leave at 6pm for other sites. Pre-registration required at sustainlex.org or for more information call 859.312.7024. The Tour and dinner is free but donations are accepted!  Sponsored by Sustainable Communities Network, The Rock/La Roc, Bluegrass Partnership for a Green Community and others. The 2008 Lexington Community Garden Tour will include stops at these sites: The Rock/La Roca United Methodist Church 1015 N. Limestone; Gardens located behind Arlington Elementary (and gardens on Price Ave. and Todds Rd) Members of the church and surrounding community began their garden together in April 2007. Since the original work days dedicated to planting, the garden was tended by neighbors from the community and in the spare time of those who work at and attend La Roca. The garden contains a variety of vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and beans—AND includes a variety of community people. The Latino and African garden members plant many vegetables that are culturally relevant to them and provide an opportunity to celebrate cultural diversity. Church leaders harvest vegetables and distribute them to neighbors. Community members are encouraged to harvest and use the vegetables themselves. Rev. Aaron and his congregation have invited other houses of worship to find God in the garden and to create Gardens of Eating.
Winburn Community Art Garden located at the Community Action Council at 1169 Winburn Drive is a collaborative effort among the Community Action Council, Russell Cave Elementary, Sustainable Communities Network, the Northeast Lexington Initiative, and other individuals and businesses in the community. Children and adults are working side-by-side to create a beautiful edible and artistic space. Neighborhood residents work in the garden on Tuesdays (5-8pm) and Saturdays (1-3pm). A gazebo is being built as we write as an Eagle Scout project. Beautiful murals hang on the fence and are part of the Native plants in flower beds were furnished by Shooting Star Nursery. All art work and structures were completed using found objects stressing the need to recycle and reuse to the youth. Volunteers from the Dunbar Memorial Garden provided pavers that were placed around the trees.

London Ferrell Community Garden located at 251 E. 3rd St., between the Old
Episcopal Burying Ground and the Fire Department was created out of a joint partnership between Christ Church Cathedral, the MLK neighborhood association, and Seedleaf. This community garden offers a place for residents to grow their own food and meet one another. It is located on a site that was once segregated, a place that excluded the majority of those nearest to it, formerly enslaved Africans and more recently African Americans. For this reason, a primary focus of the garden is racial reconciliation and food justice. It is named after
London Ferrell, an heroic clergyman who served in this area during the cholera epidemic of the early 1830s. At one time he had the largest church in Kentucky and he baptized both African and European Americans. He is buried at the adjacent Old Episcopal Burying Ground. Gardeners include residents of all ages from the surrounding area, the Fire Dept, Christ Church, two Sayre classes and BCTC. In addition to the individual plots, the garden has a community portion which is installed and maintained by Seedleaf, an urban gardening nonprofit. The produce from this garden is distributed widely among places that feed people in the neighborhood and elderly residents. It is also a site for garden education.

Southland Community Garden sits in Hill N Dale Park(LFUCG) near Southview
and Fairview Drs. With support from LFUCG City Council and Parks Dept., Neighborhood Association and community residents, The Southland Community Garden project aims to foster connections in the community and raisethe profile of (sub)urban gardening. In addition to the 11 households participating, support
and involvement has come from the city council, the parks department and a neighborhood nursery school. The garden has proven to be a beautiful addition to Hill N Dale Park and a great educational resource for neighborhood kids, who come to play in the park and have a chance to see vegetables and flowers growing. We have also gotten community residents involved in composing the scraps from the Good Foods Co-op.
Stella’s Garden—located on 6th St in the empty lot directly behind Al’s Bar at 6th and N Limestone Sts. A major purpose of the garden at Al’s Bar is neighborhood beautification. This garden is situated in an economically diverse section of Lexington. Neighbors have been initially surprised, then glad for its presence. The produce of this garden is harvested weekly and delivered to Stella’s Deli, a restaurant that features locally-sourced food.

The Benefits of Community Gardens
Improves the quality of life for people in the garden;
Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development;
Stimulates Social Interaction;
Encourages Self-Reliance;
Beautifies Neighborhoods;
Produces Nutritious Food;
Reduces Family Food Budget;
Conserves Resources;
Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education;
Reduces Crime-Preserves Green Space;
Creates income opportunities and economic development;
Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots;
Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections



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