Posts tagged ‘vacant lot gardens’

Red carpet goes green

On Superbowl Oscar nite, pay attention to the Documentary Feature category. One of the five nominees is “The Garden” (director Scott Michael Kennedy) which follows the story of a community garden in South Central Los Angeles. The garden was established on 14-acres of city-owned landin the aftermath of the 1992 LA riots. It claims to be the largest community garden in the United States.* When the land was sold to a private developer in 2003, local citizens**, many of them Latino immigrants, rallied to protect the garden.

Wouldn’t it be great if this movie came to Rhode Island? Root for it on Oscar nite, tell your chums “in the Academy” to vote for it, and check out the movie website and gardeners’ website.

And, stay tuned for Green Zone the movie later in 2009. Synopsis: Matt Damon visits a certain Providence garden and eats some kale. Or in THEIR version, Matt Damon plays a warrant officer who helps a senior CIA officer searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

*Don’t get me started on talking about all the acres of community gardens in Rhode Island during World War I. Maybe there wasn’t one single 14-acre plot (THOUGH MAYBE THERE WAS), but, for example, Brown & Sharpe oversaw 30 acres of gardens in Providence’s Smith Hill neighborhood in 1917. Let’s just say that this LA garden is very very large.

**plus Dennis Kucinich, Willie Nelson, and other celebs.

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February 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

Hazen Pingree, American idol

pingree1I’m back from a hiatus…and back from the frosty midwest. Last week, I spent a day in Detroit, birthplace of America’s vacant lot garden movement.

Years before Detroit was DETROIT and America’s car capital, the city’s Progressive mayor needed a way to feed the hungry during the  economic depression of the mid-1890s.  With unemployment rising, overextended charities, and 6000 acres of vacant lots throughout the city, Pingree established a pilot program to provide poor families with small allotment gardens where they could raise their own food and sell their surplus.

In its first year (1894), 3000 families applied for 975 gardens on 450 urban acres. With a city investment of $3600, “Pingree’s Potato Patches” produced $14,000 worth of food.  The next year, with a $5000 investment and wider support, the total produce was $30,998.  As more cities heard of Mayor Pingree’s success, they adopted similar programs, under the direction of municipal governments, local charities, churches, private associations, or some combination.  By 1898, Providence was one of seventeen American cities with a vacant lot cultivation program.

pingree-plaqueOver a century later, Detroit is a leader in the contemporary urban agriculture movement. The city’s Garden Resource Program is a collaboration of the Detroit Agriculture Network, Earthworks Urban Farm/Capuchin Soup Kitchen, The Greening of Detroit, and Michigan State.

A monument to Pingree (who later served as Governor of Michigan) sits in Grand Circus Park in Downtown Detroit. THE IDOL OF THE PEOPLE still?

December 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm 1 comment


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