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Buddha Meets Mr. Dooley - A Third Civics Lesson on Community Gardening

  • Subject: [cg] Buddha Meets Mr. Dooley - A Third Civics Lesson on Community Gardening
  • From: "Honigman, Adam" <Adam.Honigman@Bowne.com>
  • Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 12:26:34 -0500

 Re:" However, I don't think it's an accident that the communities with the
most number of threatened gardens are also the most disempowered generally,
facing huge obstacles on several fronts: housing and displacement,
environmental toxins, chronic poverty ... you name it.  Community gardens
can be an entry point into understanding how the system works, and working
to change it. Which is why, ultimately, I think power finds them so

Exactly. This is why gardeners in communities with the largest number of
threatened gardens have to do more than clear the spaces, get rid of the
junkies and criminals, plant, maintain and garden. Unfortunately, in many of
our most disempowered communities, the folks who do the political work to
get elected are characters who believe that charity begins at home: their
homes which are usually complete with every modern appliance and comfort.
They may present themselves as tribunes of the people and while they have
orginially have been from a disadvantaged group, they hold those very folks
at arms length while pretending to represent them. The need always remains
to make sure that our civil servants serve the communities they represent. 

This is why gardeners have to be registered to vote, have to engage in the
political process, need to rub elected officials faces in the political
consequences of defunded libraries, poor schools, bad housing and yes,
endangered community gardens. But we gardeners, especially in endangered
neighborhoods, those of us who barely have two nickels to rub together, have
to make sure that their votes and voices are heard. This is not blaming the
victim:  creating community gardens without getting community consensus and
political  support, no matter how hard you work at creating your community
oasis or  how welcoming and beautiful it may be, is like casting pearls
before swine. 

Re: " Part of me is angry that the hard work of nurturing life in this paved
over, dumped on environment is not seen as enough. I resent that we have to
work so hard to give people the space to do what should be an automatic

Yes Mark, be angry, but in a democracy, nothing is an automatic priority
except death and taxes. 

However, the only reason that we have public schools, public hospitals,
police, fire and sanitation departments is because years ago, citizens
campaigned and voted to make these services statutory.  "Automatic
priorities" are created by neighborhood consensus, constant lobbying of
governmental agencies and ultimately electioneering and the ballot box, not
by wishing it were otherwise. We need to, in the wonderful phrase of Noam
Chomsky, "manufacture consent." This is the 100% political action that I
believe is intrinsic to the community part of community gardening. 

Re: "I also want to honor the simple act of gardening."

Mark: Public Gardening, if you do it well, is not simple.  

Today my department at work is having a holiday party - nothing special,
just bowling, drinks and some snacks. We usually go to these parties in
jeans, and while all of my jeans are repeatedly washed and patched, there is
no way that I'll ever get the dirt out of the knees. Dress jeans is an
oxymoron in my world. I honor the simple act of community gardening on my
knees. I'll just have to be careful with my khakis...;) 

As hard as I garden, help to mow the grass, plant and compost with my fellow
gardeners, I know in my heart that just gardenening in your community is
never enough.  What we do is community garden -  integral to our mission is
to create spaces that serve and are perceived to serve in the eyes of
decision makers, as living community centers for the neighbhorhoods in which
we live.  

Last weekend, when it finally turned cold enough for the stalks of the
dahlias that I maintain in the Clinton Community Garden's magnolia bed to
blacken, a sign that the root tubers are safe to be taken out for dividing
and preservation in peat moss, for planting in the spring, I finally
finished my autumn gardening.  These will be a grand show next August and
September, especially around  September 11th  when we will all really need
to see life and color. With spring bulbs, cut back hollyhocks,  perennials,
biennials under mulch and decorative cabbages set to provide some visual
interest during the winter, the bed is now ready for the snows, when they
come. The lawn has been reseeded, and all around the garden, all of the CCG
volunteers have been breaking their butts planting bulbs, mulching roses,
making sure that the bees will be fine for the summer. The compost piles are
steaming and we're getting ready to hang suet balls for migrating birds from
our trees. The steering committee is meets monthly and we're all getting
seed and plant catalogs, planning for the fall. We honor gardening with our
knees and our backs. 

However, for an urban community garden, in a city of more than 8 million,
with contrasting and conflicting needs on land use and recreational matters,
community gardening is  50% gardening and 100% political action. Anything
less is only part of the job. 

Best wishes for the holidays,
Adam Honigman

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