Posts tagged ‘children’s gardens’
It’s the birthday of the USA, and it’s one year since I launched the Green Zone website.
What a difference a year makes. We have a new president, and there’s a thriving vegetable garden on the grounds of the White House.
New gardens are sprouting everywhere! A brand-new community garden in Davis Park, a new garden in the works for the Davey Lopes Rec Center in South Providence, and a bunch of new school gardens here and there. And so many first-time backyard growers, too.
In the Summit neighborhood, there are flowerboxes full of vegetables on porches, and so many people have dug up their front lawns to plant ornamentals or grow their own food.
I spied this brand new neighborhood garden in Mt. Hope (3 top photos). Neighbors have taken over an empty lot. Guerrilla gardeners? Dig the ankle high dry-laid stone wall and the badminton court, not to mention the used-tire composter. And not far away is the MLK School Garden, which looks on target to harvest A LOT of delicious vegetables.
On this Independence Day, get independent. In a pot or in a plot, grow your own food.
Tonight catch a screening of “Taking Root, the Vision of Wangari Maathai.” It’s the kick-off for a new community garden at the Davey Lopes Rec. Center in Providence.
The invitation says: “This powerful documentary film tells the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner who is internationally recognized for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace. Wangari founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya Africa with women whose simple act of planting trees and food gardens grew into a nationwide movement to protect human rights and defend democracy.”
The event is free, and there will be refreshments (home-made ginger beer, lemonade, farm-fresh salad, and apples).
Where: Davey Lopes Recreation Center, 227 Dudley St, Providence
Apologies to KISS…
Yesterday, I went to a meeting for Providence’s Urban Agriculture Task Force. Launched 4-5 years ago, it’s a confederation of state, local, non-profit, and individual representatives. Some of the projects initiated and/or completed by members include:
- installing new community gardens around the city, including sites at Sessions St. Park, Early St, Davis Park, Pearl St., Riverside Park, and more
- introducing urban agriculture in community planning meetings, the Mayor’s Green plan, and the Providence Comprehensive Plan
- launching a citywide Community Gardens Network
- developing strategies to integrate food gardens with affordable housing
- holding 50-mile meals at Mount Hope Farm, Local 121, and Providence College
- creating the RI Farm To School Project to connect local farms with school lunch programs
- planning an edible landscape (an orchard!) in Locust Grove Cemetery
- working with the RI Dept of Health and Statewide Planning to ensure that urban agriculture is in local comprehensive plans
- preparing a series of reports on Providence Urban Agriculture
Amazing projects in Providence and beyond. And more to come. If you want to get involved, contact the UATF via Southside Community Land Trust.
For the past few months I have been spending some quality time at the microfilm readers at the central (don’t make me call it Empire) Providence Public Library. The Rhode Island Collection includes a subject index to the Providence Journal. I am grateful to those generations of librarians who typed out article titles and dates and page numbers on catalog cards.
I have found hundreds of articles about WWI-era war gardens, WWII-era victory gardens, school gardens, community gardens, mill village gardens, and the like. And as I spin the microfilm reels to the next relevant page, it’s hard not to get distracted by all the other news and advertisements of the day.
This ad, run in the classified section on 15 May 1917, was a happy find. In 1917, Rhode Island had a case of gardenmania. In addition to all the organized garden programs–school gardens, Governor’s mill village garden contest, factory gardens, demonstration gardens, community gardens, and vacant lot gardens–individual citizens were planting “pocket-edition” gardens in their own backyards. Vegetable gardening was a statewide movement, or as the ad would have it, “a universal planting crusade.” The more I read about the Progressives’ impact on the urban environment in the 1900s and 1910s, the more I think about how it’s time to renew their goals for healthier cities and citizens today.
One hundred years ago…May 15, 1908, to be exact…the Providence Journal ran an illustrated article titled “Gardening a New Public School Study.” It noted that one of Providence’s first primary school gardens was established around 1900 by Principal Ella L. Sweeney at the Benefit Street School.
As the city’s Assistant Superintendent of primary grades in 1908, Miss Sweeney aimed to have a garden in every school so that every student could study and care for at least one plant. Ideally, each student would have his or her own garden. The initiative marked a shift in the popular “nature study” movement, which introduced the natural world inside the classroom. Miss Sweeney wanted students to take it outside.
She worked with others to secure a 1/2-acre plot at Roger Williams Park, soil from the RI College of Agriculture (now URI), and an instructor from the State Board of Agricluture. Students from Manton Avenue, Broad Street, Peace Street, Lexington Avenue, Vineyard Street, and Oxford Street schools were offered plots at the park and on vacant lots near their school to farm. According to the Journal, “The little gardens allotted to the children at the park are as much their own property as they would be were they started in their own back yards.”
Other school gardens noted in 1908 included the Open Air School on Meeting Street, Aldrich Street School for bad boys [heir words, not mine], vacant lots near Manton Avenue School, and a school in Pawtuxet Village.
One hundred years later, the Children’s Garden Network is aiming for a garden at every school and youth organization in Rhode Island by 2010. There are 40+ sites and counting. Furthermore, environmental advocates, education leaders, and government officials like Rhode Island’s Senator Jack Reed are supporting the “No Child Left Inside” initiative. Miss Sweeney had the right idea.
At the Bridgham-Westminster community garden potluck, I learned about the Niagara Street Garden from two of its gurus (and WBNA gardeners), Rachel and Greg. Rachel works for CommunityWorks Rhode Island, an Elmwood nonprofit that established the garden in 2003, and Greg is a teacher who spends his summers there working with kids. Located at the corner of Niagara and Laura streets in Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood, it’s an edible garden with raised beds and trellises growing delicious cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, herbs, strawberries, chard, and more.
Kids rule at Niagara Street Garden. For the first four years, kids planted, tended, picked, ate, and donated the produce. And they painted in gorgeous colors the raised beds, gate and fences, even the compost bin. A purple and yellow compost bin? You betcha.
In 2008, the kids showed up at two Providence restaurants and appealed to the owners and chefs. Since then, Local 121 and the Liberty Elm have purchased fresh and extremely local produce from these young gardeners and served it up. Last week, Local 121 hosted a dinner in honor of the gardeners and their families to showcase their delicious veg, herbs, and fruit. Course after course came out of the kitchen: pesto potatoes, green salad, tomato salad, zucchini fries, baba ganoush, and watermelon—all Niagara produce. And this was a meal for 60-70 people! Talk about biointensive (and yummy).
A sister project of the Women’s Land Army of America was the United States School Garden Army (USSGA). This program was created by the federal Bureau of Education in early 1917. According to Charles Lathrop Pack, the army tended two fronts: 1) increasing food production and 2) agricultural education. The longterm goal was to grow “future citizens trained to intelligent application of the principles of thrift, industry, service, patriotism and responsibility.”
The US School Garden Army distributed gardening textbooks to American schools. Principals, teachers, and parents assisted students with creating and tending school gardens and home gardens. Historian Rose Hayden-Smith notes that the USSGA represented a groundbreaking effort to make agricultural education universal and nationwide. The program daringly (listen up, today’s educators!) targeted urban and suburban students, not just children in rural farm communities. The program was very appealing to Progressive reformers who viewed wholesome outdoor activities as an antidote to the unhealthy and unsavory urban environment.
The illustrations for School Garden Army publications are terrific. Artist Maginel Wright Enright (sister of Frank Lloyd Wright) designed a poster which became the symbol of the program. Pied Piper Uncle Sam leads a brigade of children brandishing garden tools as their weapons.
In just 18 months, the United States School Garden Army spent $250,000 to provide more than 50,000 teachers with the curriculum to educate several million children. Although the Board of Education disbanded the USSGA once the war was over, the United States Department of Agriculture continued some of the educational programs it had developed for rural youth during WWI. Efforts like the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H still thrive today.