01 January 2009

Community Gardens Bring Neighbors Together - Jan 8 Event in Muskogee

A neighborhood can put its resources together to grow a bountiful garden of salad vegetables, flavorful melons, zucchini and winter squash to serve family and friends.

A plot of land, some tools, access to water and some seeds can become a source of pride, as well as building a sense of community. One conservative estimate is that there are over 10,000 community gardens around the country.

The push to grow fresh vegetables in World War Two was the last time neighbors put their ideas together to provide nutritious food for as many people as possible. In 1943 the White House lawn, vacant lots in small towns and city parks were put into production. By 1946 half of the nation’s produce was grown in Victory Gardens.

Since then, growing has become more centralized. Now agribusiness has removed the soil-to-table experience from most households.

The concerns now, are tainted vegetables, increased pesticide and fertilizer use damaging water sources, plus increased transportation costs. In the past five years there has been a federal push to bring fruit and vegetable production back into local communities with aid to local farmer’s market growers and farm-to-school food programs.

Muskogee residents are going to have an opportunity to find out more about planting a community garden in their neighborhood at a meeting next Thursday, January 8, at 6:00 in the Grant Foreman Room, Muskogee Public Library.

Two experienced gardeners, Julie Gahn and Doug Walton will present basic concepts in the hope that interested residents will come together to make gardens a reality in their own neighborhoods.

Gahn said in a telephone conversation that the Tahlequah community garden at her church grew and sold produce.

A neighborhood garden is something that pulls together a community in a spirited way, Gahn said. We made enough money growing on one-tenth acre, to fund a second garden in 2009.

Community garden residents were responsible for the planting, weeding, harvest, management and maintenance. The gardens became classrooms for children.

Most of the Tahlequah volunteers already had some gardening skills, Gahn said. But, everyone learned. We supported each other, bounced ideas around, and pooled our resources.

The other speaker, Doug Walton, Community Foods Coordinator with the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, will show slides and talk about community gardens happening in other parts of Oklahoma.

It’s really exciting to see all the creative ways that people are bringing gardening into their communities, Walton said. Those who come next Thursday will be inspired.

Walton said he hopes several neighborhoods will be represented at the meeting. It takes leaders and workers to get community gardens started. Walton will have printed materials and resources for those interested in learning more.

One nice thing about community gardens is the opportunity they provide for people without garden space or experience to find out how a garden grows, said Walton. Many of us are fortunate to know how great a home-grown tomato can taste, and this is a good way to spread that joy.

The January 8 event is a project of the Mayor’s Wellness Initiative and the Nutrition subcommittee. It is part of the effort to help Muskogee residents have healthier food choices close to home, in their neighborhoods.

The American Community Gardening Association (http://communitygarden.org) has a wealth of useful information, checklists and encouragement.
-----------
If you go
Introduction to Community Gardens
The meeting is open to anyone who thinks they may be interested in growing vegetables and fruits for themselves and for the health of their neighborhood.

January 8
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Grant Foreman Room, second floor Muskogee Public Library
Refreshments provided.

Information
Doug Walton 686-6939
Martha Alford 683-0321

No comments: