By Jody Serey
When times get tough, it seems the tough get “growing.” Community gardens – a tradition in many part of the country, especially during times of economic insecurity – are being rediscovered, and not just for their ability to feed the body. They are also good for feeding the soul, as many new gardeners are discovering. Remarked one community garden organizer, “When you come together as a group to work on something together, your differences don’t matter.”
Community gardening – whether undertaken by a neighborhood, school, church, scout troop, social service organization, etc. — is unquestionably a unifier of human beings. It is also an efficient way to produce a lot of excellent quality food for a large number of people — all of whom may be more prone to sitting down to a meal together once they have worked side by side to harvest the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors.
In the Arizona desert, the Canyon Corridor Community Garden (sponsored by Vida Nueva Iglesia Luterana) is well underway. Despite the fact that most of the gardeners were novices when they first picked up shovels and rakes in the late summer, their enthusiasm and eagerness to begin work was unstoppable despite the hottest August ever recorded. Residents of the many apartment complexes in the area joined in, along with neighborhood association representatives from several areas, Block Watch participants, school district representatives, an AmeriCorps volunteer, a Weed and Seed site coordinator, and a group of zealous Burmese gardeners. Despite the heat, the group completed nine plots and planted seeds in six of them before they called it a day and celebrated with a cook-out.
The garden’s launch was assisted through the efforts of many, and boosts to the communal effort included a loan of tools from the International Rescue Committee, a good deal on garden soil from Home Depot, scrap wood from Auto Safety House and Preferred Packaging that was pressed into service for plot borders, multiple assists from Tiger Mountain Foundation, and the expertise of Errol Johnson who installed a drip irrigation system. Finally, The Farms Choice organic chicken manure fertilizer from Hickman’s Family Farms’ was added to the soil to encourage the seeds into going green.
Sharman Hickman observed, “Farming is definitely coming into the city, and we’re creating a whole new population of urban farmers. Community gardens are literally ‘cropping up’ everywhere and we think it’s wonderful to see diverse groups of Arizonans working together to help each other. Plus, the food they grow is a precious resource these days. We’re happy to be a part of this success story. The Farms Choice is safe for use around people of all ages and animals of all kinds, so it’s a great choice for a community garden. We’ve seen it work wonders with tomatoes and all kinds of beans and squash. It does seem that the old saying is true that you can grow almost anything in the Arizona desert if you get a little water to it. We think the secret is adding a little bit of our chicken magic, too.”
The Canyon Corridor Community Garden is located off of Camelback Road at about 2942 West Camelback Road, behind Vida Nueva Church. For suggestions about how to go about establishing a community garden in your area, visit www.communitygarden.org. For information about The Farms Choice, visit www.thefarmschoice.com.