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Nickel & Dimed Community Garden Style: Re - Creation

  • Subject: [cg] Nickel & Dimed Community Garden Style: Re - Creation
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Fri, 18 Apr 2003 08:44:37 EDT

Re:  Here in San Diego, many of the working poor have more than one low  
paying job just to get by and that does not allow time for planting, weeding, 
 watering, chatting with "neighbors" and all the other things we gardeners  
enjoy about community gardens. 


Ehrenreich's book, "Nickeled and Dimed" was a clear-eyed book on the crappy 
service sector jobs our economy has created instead of the highly paid, value 
added jobs that we need.  Ehrenreich went into her "research" of 
this book with the knowledge that the escape hatch back  to her comfortable, 
upper-middle class life was there in her purse: the working poor's idea of an 
escape hatch is the lotto. 

Here at the Clinton Community Garden in   Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen,  the 
working poor have been a large part of our garden community.  In NYC,  the 
gardener in those families of working poor will be the grandmother who 
watches over the kids and cooks for the parents who work different, multiple  
shifts as laborers, dishwashers, maids or what have you.  These grandmothers 
in our part of the world are  Hispanic, largely Cental American, Mexican or 
Puerto Rican and alway seem to have small grandchildren in tow.  

Interestingly, while food is grown, it is the flowers that seem to be the 
most important to these families, and sometimes these beds will be kept 
ablaze with flowers all season as a kind of cutting garden. The idea of 
having fresh flowers throughout the season seems to be amazingly important to 
many of these grandmothers.  

During the summer, on their days off, usually mid-week, we'll see the fathers 
and mothers in our front formal garden for a few minutes with their kids, 
sitting on the benches, the lawn or walking around looking at the flower 
beds.  One Mexican construction laborer (the daily shape-up kind, not the 
unionized white guys from the suburbs who have the pick-up trucks and pay 
these guys cash) just lies on our lawn sometimes.  His wife and kids know 
where to find him, on his back, gathering strength from the earth. 

Sometimes the value of a community garden is just in being pretty, accessible 
and there so bone-tired working people can re-create themselves.  Others, 
when they can, garden.  In Hell's Kitchen, with so little good open space 
that is free of broken glass and dog crap, a lawn, with flower beds and 
benches, a beehive, an apple tree, grape arbor and a public herb garden takes 
on a greater importance than it would in other places where these are common. 

I'm honored to be a public gardener in this space and work very hard to give 
folks who will never spend the carfare to go to a botanical garden some 
flowers and green.  

Yes, the shame of hunger in this country is very much with us: our gardeners 
here donate their excess to local food shelters and individuals.   Some like 
me also give time to local soup kitchen and other food security efforts, but 
sometimes I think the best thing that I do is grow dahlias when I watch a 
Mexican grandmother point them out as a flower that grows back home.

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman
 <A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/";>Clinton Community Garden</A>

<< Subj:     [cg] Nickel & Dimed Community Garden Style
 Date:  4/17/03 8:35:23 PM Eastern Daylight Time
 From:  SDHC@aol.com
 Sender:    community_garden-admin@mallorn.com
 To:    community_garden@mallorn.com
 CC:    SDHC@aol.com
 I have read Nickel & Dimed and have also had some experience trying to get a 
 community garden going along the border - but in San Diego County.  I do 
 believe the two experiences are related since in the book she writes about 
 her experiences in the urban workforce where many people find themselves 
 working very hard for very little reward and sometimes it seems that trying 
 to get a community garden started feels like a lot of work for very little 
 reward.  Fortunately, her book was a short term experience and most 
 gardening is a commitment to at least the first harvest time if not the next 
 planting year and beyond.  
 Community gardening does increase the amount of healthy food available to 
 poor people, but in reality too many of them are working at the sorts of 
 that require most of their time and energy. This was the problem I had when 
 trying to start up a community garden a few years ago.  People were just too 
 busy trying to get by to make the commitemtn needed to get a community 
 going. Here in San Diego, many of the working poor have more than one low 
 paying job just to get by and that does not allow time for planting, 
 watering, chatting with "neighbors" and all the other things we gardeners 
 enjoy about community gardens.  
 Today, I find that many of the community gardeners that participate in the 
 TiJuana River Valley community garden are retired and live nearby. Some of 
 them once worked as migrant farmers by the way.  Most of the gardeners seem 
 to have extended family members to help out as needed - and some of those 
 little ones who are just learning to grow things they can eat.  
 This year I am encouraging all of the gardeners to plant a little extra that 
 they can share with the local emergency food organizations so those who are 
 too busy to plant can still enjoy the harvest.
 Michele Delehanty, consultant
 San Diego Hunger Coalition
 FAX 619-427-652 >>

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