hort.net Seasonal photo, (c) 2006 Christopher P. Lindsey, All Rights Reserved: do not copy
articles | gallery of plants | blog | tech blog | plant profiles | patents | mailing lists | top stories | links | shorturl service | tom clothier's archive0
Gallery of Plants
Tech Blog
Plant Profiles
Mailing Lists
    Search ALL lists
    Search help
    Subscription info
Top Stories
sHORTurl service
Tom Clothier's Archive
 Top Stories
New Trillium species discovered

Disease could hit Britain's trees hard

Ten of the best snowdrop cultivars

Plant protein database helps identify plant gene functions

Dendroclimatologists record history through trees

Potato beetle could be thwarted through gene manipulation

Hawaii expands coffee farm quarantine

Study explains flower petal loss

RSS story archive

Philly study comments

  • Subject: [cg] Philly study comments
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2005 17:33:21 -0800 (PST)

Hi all,

I posted the Philly study story from the Philadelphia
Inquirer today. It is interesting, since for community
gardeners it seems to me a decidedly mixed blessing
(if a blessing at all). I discussed the study earlier
this year with Michael Groman in Philly.

In brief, the study is based on a decision by
'community greeners' in Philadelphia to put move ahead
with a program to 'beautify' vacant lots by creating
little suburban lawns - grass and a picket fence,
maybe with a few shrubs or landscape trees (I'm
guessing routine 'standards' like privets, Bradford
pear and various maples). Garden groups, from the
neighborhood and outside volunteers, install these
burbettes and keep them up.

According to Groman - a very pleasant fellow, who
appears to share many underlying values with ACGAers -
it isn't exactly that they have turned their backs on
community gardens, though the pot of resources is now
going predominantly into burbettes. It's just that
community gardens are a lot of trouble to set up and
maintain. With so many vacant lots, and so few people
on staff, and the fact that materials for burbettes
are relatively cheap and easy...burbettes are just
more practical. And, well, community gardens don't
always look tidy, and neighborhoods don't always keep
them up...You get the idea.

Now, this study arrives to tell us that trees and
burbettes improve home values. Community gardens are
barely mentioned - anyone know what the report says
about them?

To me, though I know that I risk offending folks I
mostly agree with (as opposed to those who think they
can solve global problems with bombs and jingoist
blather), this strategy raises very troubling

For starters, what about food growing and land access
in inner cities (in fact, everywhere) for those
without a place to garden or who want to garden in
community? These burbettes may look good to realtors,
but they don't improve food security at all. (I know
very well, and prize, the fact that North American
community gardens are not simply about food or
allotments. That said, they have traditionally not
been about lawns and gumball shrubs, either, these
being the domain of conventional parks, malls and
slurbs. These burbettes don't seem to have a place for
people, for native plants and critters, or for flowers
and herbs. Like the suburban lawnscape that spawned
them, they frankly don't seem very friendly to

Ecologically, do we really want to clone the American
suburban lawn and the agrochemical dependency and flat
aesthetic that goes with it, one of the great
environmental deadends of the century just past? And
who is going to tend the burbettes? Is the plan to
hire kids in the neighborhood to push the donated
lawnmowers? And weed, and water? Or is this how
well-intentioned middle-class volunteers can 'plug in'
a little feel-good project, then be able to complain
about how 'we tried to help 'those people', you know,
but they just wouldn't keep their trash off the lot'. 

Last but not least, this study represents the latest
in a series of 'research' reports coming out of Philly
recently which, among other things, have claimed that
urban agriculture really isn't viable, save maybe for
hydroponic 'spaceship ghetto' type projects. Having
read the reports, I'm extremely skeptical of their
methodology and conclusions. We in community gardening
are justly hungry for research - but we need to insist
on the highest standards, and on vigorous and open
discussion and debate.

(In the case of the report in this story, though, Dr.
Wachter's methodology may well be of great value,
since it offers a way to quantify the value of
'greening' projects.)

Beyond this is the question of how to handle it when
good people see things differently, and when our
projects compete for space, funding and legitimacy -
our 'greeners' (more oriented toward planning and,
sometimes mainstream environmentalism, sometimes
'high' gardening/landscape architecture); vs. our
'gardeners' (more oriented toward ag, food and
'down-to-earth' gardening); vs. our various
'organizers' (more oriented toward political action)
and 'servers' (more oriented toward helping people in
need and charitable action), both of whom range along
a spectrum that includes all sorts of approaches to
greening and gardening, not occasionally including the
belief that either is mostly just a means to an end.

No, these divisions aren't simple cardboard
caricatures - each of us represents a blend of all
these perspectives and more. Guess that's what ACGA is
all about, huh?  Seeking common ground.

Don B, Charlotte, NC

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

To subscribe, unsubscribe or change your subscription:  https://secure.mallorn.com/mailman/listinfo/community_garden

 © 1995-2017 Mallorn Computing, Inc.All Rights Reserved.
Our Privacy Statement
Other Mailing lists | Author Index | Date Index | Subject Index | Thread Index