Earlier this month Meg and I took a trip to Philadelphia so we could meet Era (from E.r.r.a.n.t) who is a community garden organizer and blogger. As many of you know I am currently gathering information for a proposal to have a community garden built at my school. Era was kind enough to answer some questions, give some advice, and show us some gardens; all on a day that exceeded 100°F.
The first garden she took us to is on a piece of property that is actually owned by the bank, but there are so many liens on the lot there is no chance anyone will buy it. I don't know if they got or need permission from the bank to garden here; she may have told us, but I was so blown away by the space, chances are I missed some bits of information. Whatever the answer may be, I do remember her telling me that some of the gardeners here have had their spots for something like ten years. So whether the bank said sure or not, I think is a moot point.
Each individual plot is 4x8 feet. You can see how they are divided with wooden raised bed barriers. I was surprised at how open each bed was to one another; I suppose that I expected fences. There wasn't anyone one there (did I mention it was hot?), but you could feel the communal effort (and that's not just the tree-hugger in me coming out).
In the above photo is a plot from the gardener I mentioned who has been a part of this community garden for over ten years. Effing beautiful.
This is another community garden a little down the road. Like the first lot, the people who garden here do not own the land but they opted to take their chances and grow food as opposed to leaving it to collect trash. I think Era called them squatters.
Probably the most impressive garden we saw, Mill Creek Farm, is about half of a city block in size (not a New York City block, but an old town Philly block) and it is set up as half urban farm and half community garden. I forget exactly how they got the property (note to self, take better notes), but I seem to recall something about a grant from the city.
Their use of space was incredible.
—Oh yeah, before I forget, something I noticed when we got to this community garden (and after spending an afternoon with Era) is that the community garden scene has attracted the leadership of some very strong and kickass women. I'm not quite sure what the connection is, but I dig it and it's something I plan to highlight in my proposal. The organizers (I think that's their title) of Mill Creek are two women, Jo and Jade, and it was obvious that they are why the farm/garden works so well. If our baby is a girl...
Something Mill Creek has done that I would like to see at my school is they have turned their space into not only a place for local food production, but a place for learning as well. They have honey bees, solar panels, a composting toilet, a living roof, and my favorite...
...a cob oven. One of the many services they provide to the community are tours to students from local schools.
After we left Mill Creek, the heat had gotten the best of us so we decided to call it a day. As we made the drive to Era's we noticed even more community gardens in spaces that would otherwise have been vacant. There are a lot of really good people out there.