Thursday, May 17, 2012

Grow Your Own is Making a Comeback in Cleveland

The Buckeye Area Family Garden Initiative

Saturday, May 12th I visited Benedictine High School on Martin Luther King Drive where the Buckeye Area Family Garden Initiative was kicking off its neighborhood gardening endeavor.  

According to the  Family Garden Initiative this is the first of its kind in Cuyahoga County; "We aim to bring healthy food back to the household through backyard gardening."   
This is a collaboration with the Buckeye Area Development Corporation.  The Garden Initiative itself is composed of Buckeye- Woodland Learning Farm, Body Age Project, Green Houses and Greenhouses, Garden Leader Network and Green Line.

At the center of this initiative, Garden Soxx a portable growing system that can be "planted" virtual anywhere.  The above ground Garden Soxx system is sponsored by filtrex land improvement systems a subsidiary of nonprofit 501c3 Filtrexx Foundation.  According to the filtrexx website the foundation was
 "created to promote educational programs centered on compost use, gardening, childhood, early development, and student programs."
2006 South Central Farmers Evicted Despite Daryl Hannah Efforts

Some may remember the 14 acres urban farm in South Central Los Angeles in California servicing around 500 mostly Hispanic families that no longer exists.  With all of the vacant warehouses in the area developers wanted the land supposedly to build a warehouse, yeah right.  The developers proffered the idea that if $16.3 million dollars was raised the farmers could stay.  Danny Glover and Willie Nelson were involved in the effort as were Daryl Hannah and Ed Begley Jr. who both lived in a tree on the property for 23 days.  The money was raised and the farmers were still evicted days later.

In sharp contrast to this travesty, six years later First Lady Michelle Obama visits the International Rescue Committee (IRC) sponsored gardens in San Diego in the City Heights neighborhood.  First Lady chose this site to promote her  own national gardening initiative.  Unlike the South Central garden this garden is 2.3 acres, is tended by, and services refugees from Somalia, Guatemala, Burma, Uganda, Mexico, Vietnam and several other foreign countries.

Like the gardens of the Buckeye initiative Michelle Obama tore up a portion of the south lawn and planted her own private garden; well as private as a garden can be on government property. 

 If memory serves me, as a child growing up in the Lee Harvard/Lee Miles area of Cleveland, Ohio many of the schools had community gardens as did many of my classmates' parents.  My parents certainly had a garden that yielded more than we could eat at harvest times.  We harvested, cooked and ate, gave food away, and canned.  I remember pear preserves, canned green beans,  tomatoes and other garden delectables and cherries.  Does anyone know what a Ball jar looks like?
Even through my high school years living in Woodmere it was not difficult to find gardeners.  I would laugh at the friendly competition as the Lards, the Rices, Mr. Burke and others would carry their best offerings to people, especially other gardeners with a, "let's see you top that smile," thinly veiled in the offering.

I remember my mother sending me to the garden in January to dig through the snow and bring in collard greens with leaves sometimes circling the center three feet in diameter.  In the fall we harvested our apples and passed them through a grinder and then into an apple press, ahhhh, immediate gratification as we would taste the cold apple juice squeezed through the cheesecloth running down the cast iron channel.

The one thing I don't remember are Garden Soxx.  The company states that this is the fast easy way to garden, not much harder than putting your plants in and watering; and it is about that simply.

Kristin Nix of the Filtrex Foundation and Garden Soxx
Buckeye Community Health fellow Vedette Gavin. Kristin Nix of the Filtrex Foundation
In one respect this is surely a sign of the times in our no fuss, no muss, prepackaged, prefab society but this is very pragmatic.  Garden Initiative started out with 150 of these gardens and I suspect a good many of them went to "once upon a time" gardeners as well as "I'm not going to dig and fertilize" gardeners.  It seems a great jumpstart idea.  it is wonderful that Buckeye Garden Initiative considered and opted for organic Garden Soxx; it is clear from the filtrexx site that non organic is an option possibly their primary ware, unless one asks otherwise.

Vedette Gavin explains how it works
The kick-off event was very well organized I found as I went from the logistics tables where friendly, knowledgeable staff proactively engaged people that arrived to the education table where very knowledgeable folks answered all of my questions.  So often one can go to endeavors like this, ask questions, and be met with, "Don't ask me I just work here."  I found none of that here.  Even the uninvolved Benedictine athletes there new what was going on.

If you would like more information on this initiative, even how to start it in your neighborhood, Vedette Gavin's name floated to the top the most.  Also visit the Buckeye Area Family Garden Initiative website.
Buckeye Development Area Corp staffer Radiah Douglas

Radiah Douglas and Garden participant

Volunteers from Cake Boys Cake Girls

Garden Initiative staff