Friday, November 13, 2009

A Meeting of the Minds

***The following post is word-heavy and I apologize, but I just had a really exciting meeting and I wanted to share with you some West Phila community garden developments.***

On Wednesday I participated in a discussion between the community garden leaders in West Philadelphia and staff at the University City District (UCD), a nonprofit that aims to "maintain a clean and safe environment and to promote, plan, and advocate for University City's diverse, urban community." (University City is the name some people use to refer to the 2.4 square mile area of West Philadelphia that includes UPenn and my neighborhood.) In general, UCD provides security presence, cleans streets, advocates for local businesses on main business corridors, and is now interested in "sustainability" in University City. It was this last goal that led to the discussion last night.

There were six community garden leaders there, including myself. We discussed ways in which UCD could aid the local community gardens and we came up with a huge list of things! They are interested in becoming a clearinghouse for all community garden information in this area, including up-to-date info on garden locations and contacts which is much needed. They are also able to provide gardeners with dry leaves from their street cleaning that we can use to mix into our compost (gardens produce so much wet green stuff that it's hard to find enough dry brown to mix in so the compost can develop properly). By providing gardens with dried leaves, we will be closing at least one tiny carbon circle in our neighborhood, and saving UCD disposal money so everyone's happy!

Other ideas included providing trash pickup on workdays, woodchips for pathways, access to fire hydrants and rain barrels, assistance with land preservation, and creating an online calendar for workdays and workshops. It seems like this relationship is going to be good for everyone!

In addition to the outcome of the meeting, it was useful to have all of the community garden leaders in the same room talking to one another. That hardly ever happens and I think this is the beginning of a bit more organization amongst us. We can all help one another with information and resources, and it was nice to be able to talk about some of the challenges we're facing as well. I like where this is going.


In other Philadelphia community garden news, there was a report published this month that
summarizes research on the state of community (and "squatter") gardens in Philadelphia. It's called the Harvest Report and it measures the amount of food grown in community gardens and to traces its distribution, with the broader goal of understanding the roles and impacts of community gardens in building food security for households and communities. It was written by a team of people at UPenn in the City Planning and Urban Studies departments. It's quite long, but it contains a history of community gardening in Philadelphia that's worth a read.

According to the report, there are "226 community or squatter gardens growing food [and] 154 ornamental gardens" in Philadelphia. They also estimate that community gardens in Philadelphia produced over two million pounds of vegetables and herbs in the summer of 2008!!!!

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Nicole said...

It sounds like you're in just the right place meeting just the right people! It is so cool that you are a part of this and finding such a wonderful community of people who share your goals and excitements! Yay!