What Happened?

growing happeningAs it turns out, plenty!!

It may be an understatement to say that it has been a busy and productive year here at home&community. With our OriginalGreen and fiscal sponsorship projects firing on all cylinders, it’s often been dizzying but always exciting. One sneak peak for 2016 we think you’ll dig…we’re bringing some neat, new technology to the farm sites.

We know a lot of friends and supporters follow our activities and many of the news items we post, but it’s still easy to miss some of the news! So, we’ve put together a list of our most popular posts for the past year.  Let’s see…

We became certified to sell at the farmers market AND we sold out of produce on our first outing. The culmination of a months-long process to get our first farm entrepreneur selling has been satisfying, since we’ve been working without the benefit of large donations or funding.

We gave it our best shot at lot takeover with Broadchester Farms (we’re not giving up, just yet!) and even received nice local news coverage (here and here), along with starting urban farm work with Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Tech students, at a donated site next to their high school.

There were posts offering insight into gender and farming.

And we highlighted successes in public housing gardening while continuing to add to our own public housing garden census (nearly 150 strong across the nation!).

We grew peanuts and a great soul food garden at the Ghettostead!

We talked a lot about the benefits of growing food in the city (they go far beyond nutrition), and the fact that 20% of the world’s food is growing in those cities (but what does that mean?), while contemplating growing food without owning land.

We shared lots of science! There was a bit of “we told you so” about the benefits of living near trees.   Not to mention some knowing nods about a 30-year study revealing organic farming outperforming conventional farming in years of drought.

Last and absolutely not least, our farm sites were cleaned, amended and all-around transformed, by the volunteers from GoogleServes.

What will we do next?  Well, there’s even more planned than the sneak peak we gave you about new technology.  You’ll just have to keep up with us in the new year!

Tech Sneak Peak

Tech Sneak Peak

How do we appeal to thee, let us count the ways…

Hello community food and urban gardening friends!  We’re one-twelfth of the way through 2012 and working away.  Some of that work is the work of raising not just food, but funds to raise food!  Thankfully, we’re surrounded by great friends who are stepping up to support that part of the effort.

We’ll be holding our first and largest fundraiser of the year just before Earth Day.  There will be plenty of green swag for everyone!  Later in the spring, there will be a gleaning fieldtrip and an event to learn about (and enjoy!) winemaking.  Then, we’re holding a Great Gatsby themed function in the fall, complete with an era-appropriate drink and food menu!

Meanwhile, we’ve got an ongoing “mud and wheels” appeal – offering a recurring donation option.  Did you know that for only $ 7.50 per month – the oft-quoted cost of a few grande lattes – you can provide dirt and water and (hopefully) a delivery bike for our clients at our Original Green growing sites? That’s more than just mud and wheels!

Here’s the latest…We’ve got five beds growing and building seven more for spring and summer planting.  Our plan includes acquiring another donated site (already identified!) and food deliveries to elderly residents.  In addition to the mud, we’ll need seeds, plants, redwood, amendments and kid-size tools.  We raised nearly $2,500 for our community food plan in 2011.  That’s a great number, and we are grateful, but we can definitely grow more good with more help!

Maybe you’ll trade a latte to help us make mud (and expand our community food plan)? You can learn more and find our “Subscribe” button here.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, here’s a video from one of our Slow Food events, courtesy the folks at PowerSharing. It highlights some of the work we engaged in last year with our friends and master gardener at Nickerson Gardens. Thank you, and stay tuned!

Build a Bed

Work continues on our garden plot.  These days of early darkness and colder temps (relatively speaking for California) can certainly challenge even the most committed volunteers.  The site is clear, though, and ready.  Soon, soon…

Meanwhile, while trying to come up with unique ways to raise funds to sustain our work, we had a brainstorm.  The raised beds we’ve already installed were easy to assemble and have proven to be durable over this planting season.  Why not provide them to the general public?

We decided to create a kit of parts for redwood raised beds.  They’re small enough to be accommodated on a condo balcony or small side yard.  They’re beautiful material…and while we can’t speak for the eventual craftsmanship, we have confidence in everyone who buys and assembles one (or two!).

Our goal is bring a little of our Community Food System Project to you.  And what better way to support us than by letting us encourage you to grow your own food?!  ← (hint: click that link for more info!)  As always, thank you.

How (and where) does your public housing garden grow? Part 5.

It has been a very busy few months at Original Green.  Yes, we’re still preparing our first urban farming site in South Los Angeles (never realized how much planning and preparation there could be!).  And we’re still holding our quarterly community raising dinners (a report on last month’s “Slow Food, Seoul Food” event coming to our Facebook page soon).  Still Tweeting about affordable and fresh food options for low-income residents.  And we’re always updating our Facebook page with information about everything from mobile farmers markets to the acceptability of modern-day sharecropping.

One thing that’s become clear, there is always something to do…and a lot of it.  It can get pretty frustrating to have ideas and feel like you’re moving at a glacial pace to put them into action.  One ongoing effort that steadily (and quickly) grows is our list of community gardens in public housing.

Since the last update, we’ve added almost 40 more sites, including gardens in North Carolina, California, Oregon, Ohio, Tennessee and a few more in New York.  Here are a few of the notable examples.

The Rancho San Pedro garden, run by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, was completed just days ago.  There are gardens in Oregon, supported by the Housing Authority of Clackamas County, near Portland.   In Cleveland, Tennessee public housing residents are growing in their individual backyards with support from The Caring Place, approved by the Cleveland (TN) Housing Authority.

The Green Thumb Program encourages gardening and provides assistance to do so in public housing sites in Knoxville.   While the Geauga Metropolitan Housing Authority near Chagrin Falls, Ohio permits community gardens that feed a number of families.  Young people and the “Sunshine Crew” are raising produce to be shared by families in the public housing communities of the North Wilkesboro Housing Authority in North Carolina.

And while it’s not part of our census (because the food isn’t grown on the public housing site) we found a great model for a youth-staffed community farmers market supported by the Southhampton Housing Authority on Long Island.  Likewise, the Providence Housing Authority in Rhode Island partners with Farm Fresh Rhode Island to bring farmer markets to housing communitiesAnd they accept EBT (formerly food stamps).

So, like all things at Original Green, the list keeps growing!  And, growing is always good!

Unplanning

It’s been quite a month.  We held our most recent Slow Food event and completed a course of action for building the raised beds at our two housing sites.  All these things were expected and lined up, in order, in the tidy bullet points of our Original Green Community Food Plan.

One of the goals of the Community Food Plan is to provide job training for low-income residents, in garden development and construction.  Teaching people to build and maintain gardens has been considered a “down-the-road-when-other-parts-of-the-plan-are-firmly-established” kind of goal.  Well, it’s just like a plan to go and unplan itself…we are about to implement that piece, building our first raised beds on non-low-income housing, private property.

You might remember that one of our ongoing objectives is to develop linked, growing sites, at the neighborhood level.  Included in that work is encouraging a commitment to sharing, cooperation, community raising, resilience, and empathy among other things.  We’ve definitely been doing the latter, in an intangible way, through our quarterly face-to-face Slow Food events.  But our long-range plan has always included doing so on a more tangible level of food sharing across communities.  This means placing growing sites not just in low-income developments, but other private homes, too.   So, in the spirit of unplanning we engaged our first client, to shape a training program and further cement our commitment to promoting community sharing.

We’ll now install raised beds at a significantly lower cost to the property owner, in exchange for a commitment to sharing any produce overages and ultimately being included in our overall distribution system.  Now, the task is to complete the actual sharing strategy.  Yes, it was also down the list on our bullet-pointed, perfect list, but sometimes things just happen…

Food matters, Housing matters…all year long

When approached for money on the street, I am one of those people who doesn’t need to have your whole story…just needs to know that you’re in need.  In other words, I make no judgments on the why or what of your need.  You’re asking.  If I spend too much time thinking that everyone is out to game the system or me, then I’m missing opportunities to show someone that they matter – even when they might not think that I do.  Maybe that acknowledgment will make a difference, maybe not.

In the span of one day, I was asked for money to collect enough for train fare, asked for money for a gallon of gas to get to a friend’s apartment and asked for money to buy fruit. Unlike what usually happens, where each person asks and leaves it at that, on this day each wanted to offer a long explanation of their need. The train fare woman was prepared with a schedule and a tally of what she still needed to raise to get a ticket to her aunt’s house.  The gas man told me how many miles it was to his friend’s house (15 miles) and how he was going to crash with him while they worked a carpentry job. And the fruit woman wanted to make a pie, to thank her sister for taking in her and her two kids for the next few weeks.

Whoa, a pie in gratitude? This last story resonated with me.  Of course I had to ask what kind and where she got her recipe (apple…from their mom).  Of course I had to talk to her about food and housing, too.  I gave her some information about public fruit trees and gleaning (along with apple money). I also took her name and address so I could forward information about transitional housing for her and the kids.

It all just reminded me that sometimes you never know a person’s real reason for asking.  In the cases above, the real story was about housing…and certainly food.  November 14-20 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

But food and housing matters all year long.

Every day that you and I eat and have shelter is an opportunity to learn more about ways — big and small — to alleviate hunger and homelessness for others. It’s also a chance to trust that the asking can be reason enough.

How (and where) does your public housing garden grow? Part 4.

We continue gathering information about community gardens in public housing.  Here’s a reminder why…

These gardens serve as models for affordable housing communities with information about: siting, navigating bureaucrazy (um, bureaucracy), community sharing and building, health benefits.  We want housing authorities to support community gardening and urban farming.

And, that’s it.  That is the goal of this “census.”  As we continue to do our own work at the Nickerson Gardens public housing garden, we see first hand how residents manage each of the above goals.  There are, of course, many individual residents who raise plants on their own, but our search focuses on sites designated by local housing authority as community gardens (remember, we want to know how folks navigate the bureaucracy).

In our first post we identified gardens in 18 states and talked about our process.  In our second, we talked more about the importance of even keeping count.  In part 3, we added nine states! This time, we’ve added 38 gardens and have added Florida to reach a total of 30 states!  The following are of particular note.

In Florida, the Miami-Dade Public Housing Authority has established an edible garden in the Liberty Square Housing Project; while you’ll find them at Dixie Court Apartments in the Fort Lauderdale Housing Authority.  We’ve added Ingersoll Houses to New York City Housing Authority’s large number of recognized gardens.  And, Ohio’s Geauga Metropolitan Housing Authority is using the community garden model at all its public housing.  The Housing Authority of Portland has added a garden to its St. Johns Woods development.  While, in Massachusetts, we found gardens at the Somerville Housing Authority’s Mystic Housing Project.  Oh, and as a follow-up to our Part 3 post, the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District in Alabama has installed demonstration gardens in its Park Place development, and is working with Jones Valley Urban Farm to bring even more healthy options to residents!

It’s always so exciting to find more gardens in low-income communities.  If you know about any gardens in public housing, please let us know!