Posts tagged ‘demonstration gardens’

Hope gardens: it’s time (again)

1920-21statehousegardenHats off to Providence Journal Business editor John Kostrzewa for today’s column on “A seed of hope and easy to plant.” Kostrzewa suggests that in this time of economic crisis, hope is in short supply. While we work on the big-picture, long-term, structural fixes, why not engage in a more immediate way to improve Rhode Island: “Dedicate plots of land throughout the state for community gardens.”

His column puts forward a number of initiatives that may seem groundbreaking, but they all have precedents in Rhode Island’s recent history. For instance:

“How about using some of the highly visible sloping land that runs away from the State House. Or what about the 4.5 acres across the street from the Amtrak station.”
Done: Around 1920-21, the Rhode Island Normal School had a demonstration school garden on its grounds southwest of the State House–where Providence Place Mall stands today (see photo above).

“Make community gardens a statewide project. Make it a competition among each of the cities and towns to design and plant their own plots.”
Done: In 1916, Governor R. Livingston Beeckman initiated an annual garden contest among mill towns. Prizes were awarded for best vegetable garden, garden, and village appearance.

“Pick the sites from available public land.”
Done. In 1908, the city installed school gardens at Roger Williams Park. In 1943, the RI Senate passed a resolution “to formulate and promulgate a plan and program of procedure for the state of Rhode Island victory gardens upon state-owned land.”

“The seeds and plants can be donated.”
Done: In 1908, Congressman Daniel Granger secured donations of seeds for the Roger Williams Park school gardens. In 1932, RI Congressmen arranged for the US Dept. of Agriculture to distribute seeds to RI gardeners.

“Once the gardens have been planted, turn over the maintenance to service organizations, such as the scouts or fraternal groups.”
Done: During World War I, local organizations that participated in the War Garden movement included: RI Horticultural Society, Providence Housewives League, RI Boy Scouts (who guarded the gardens), and the League of Improvement Societies–not to mention dozens of factories and schools.

“And with so many unemployed people, let them work in a garden until they find a job.”
Done: During the Great Depression, state and local governments organized a statewide subsistence garden program of “private backyard gardens, vacant lot gardens, community plots divided into individual gardens, industrial gardens, industrial gardens for part-time workers, and community gardens not divided into individual plots but worked by unemployed men in return for food orders.”

As Kostrzewa notes, we’re on our way, thanks to the work of groups like Southside Community Land Trust and the Children’s Garden Network. I’ll add my two cents: just look to the past to learn how green Rhode Island can be.

Bibliographic note: The photograph of the demonstration garden at the RI Normal School comes from the League of Improvement Societies in RI Year Book for 1920-21. All other historical information derived from articles in the Providence Journal, 1906-1943.

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April 12, 2009 at 2:21 pm 1 comment

Green$

Thanks to everyone who showed up for Green Drinks on Thursday. I enjoyed hanging out at Green Zone to talk gardens, consumption, and war with a bunch of gardeners, activists, greenies, bloggers, and friends.

One of the people I met is studying the economic value of community gardens. If you’ve visited the community garden outside Brown University’s Urban Environmental Lab this summer, you’ve seen the  signs stating that an experiment is in progress. Grad student Marie-Laure Couet weighing the carrots, counting the lettuce leaves, and tallying it all up. If you’ve seen your grocery bills go down in the summer as your community garden thrives, contact Marie-Laure.

This morning, I picked some beans, kale, and beet greens for the upcoming Firehouse 13 potluck. There’s still more to graze on in Green Zone, but it was time to do some serious harvesting. And that means serious eating tomorrow.

September 22, 2008 at 7:43 am Leave a comment


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