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RE: community_garden digest, Vol 1 #1100 - 5 msgs

  • Subject: [cg] RE: community_garden digest, Vol 1 #1100 - 5 msgs
  • From: Julie Samuels <jsamuels@openlands.org>
  • Date: Mon, 8 Jul 2002 14:06:36 -0500

The Northside Learning Center, a special education school in Chicago, has a
garden and greenhouse that the students use to grow food that is used in
preparing students' lunches in the school kitchen.  For complete information
and the political realities, Contact Julie Rose at Northside TMH Learning
Center, 3730 Bryn Mawr Ave 773/534-5180

Message: 1
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 15:05:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: nan@toad.net
Subject: [cg] School Lunch and Community Garden

I am a 12 month horticulture teacher for a special education school(11-21),
I am very interested to know if anyone has experience with school systems,
allowing lunch programs to be supplemented with what the students grow in
The lunch programs here seem to only allow us to sell "chocolate bars" in
building.  If we take the food we grow from our community garden and "give"
away (i.e.in the form of soups) during lunches apparently it is considered 
competition, and not allowed in the 'nutrition' program.  I really want to 
increase the food volume and quality and would like to know if anyone has
experience or advice for me.  Any help would be appreciated. Looking for
for Sept 2002.

N. McKay,HTT
Baltimore, MD 

This mail sent via toadmail.com, web e-mail @ ToadNet - want to go fast?


Message: 2
From: Adam36055@aol.com
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 16:16:49 EDT
Subject: Re: [cg] School Lunch and Community Garden
To: nan@toad.net, community_garden@mallorn.com


Lets see if I got it right: 
You, the nice horticulture teacher want to improve the quality and quantity 
of the school lunch served at your state run  special education school with 
food that you raise in your school's garden.  The people who run the 
cafeteria only let students sell chocolate bars in the cafeteria, but all 
else has to come out of their kitchen.

As a former PTA parent ( my kid graduated high school, free at last from the

PTA!) and a hotel restaurant union shop steward with jobs to protect, I see 
that the way to get from point A to point B here will mean that you will
to make a detour through J and W in order to get where you want to go.  I am

not kidding - this is a political and bureaucratic situation. 

As departments, you have administration in your school, the teachers,
( the nurse), custodial staff and dietary. I don't know if your custodians 
and dietary employees have a union, but they sure as heck have bureaucratic 
rules that they have to follow to keep their jobs.  It may be that the folks

in the dietary do not answer to the administration in the school but to a 
central office that manages food service for the City of Baltimore, the
of Maryland, or whomever.  Your dietary employees job ( I don't know if you 
have your own dietitian at your school or a district dietitian who handles 
several sites) is to properly receive, safely store, serve and dispose of  
foodstuffs certified to be safe and wholesome by the powers that be to the 
consumer base in the school.  They have been told, undoubtedly  by 
supervisers, that no un-authorized foodstuffs are to be served in the 

Do your homework - find out who is the ultimate arbiter of what gets served 
in your school cafeteria ( probably outside of your school) and talk to your

direct supervisor and to more experienced teachers in the system.  Run it by

somebody in administration who you think may be receptive, but do not go
the head of your direct supervisor - that is counterproductive.  Listen to 
what they have to say - this takes time, but it helps to create a degree of 
consensus for your project.  Maybe, like most good ideas, somebody thought 
about this before - if it failed, you can find out why.

Then write a respectful letter to the food service supervisor, copying all
the people that you have consulted along the way, explaining how you would 
work with him with your school grown produce.  If you have a parents 
association, it may be a good thing to get them involved now that you know 
who your supporters are for your project. 

If the supervisor caves, then you have the job of implementing the project, 
making sure that the produce that you serve to the school is up to the 
certified level required by the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland.

If the supervisors finds a way not to do it - a standard bureacratic
then keep the letter and go to plan B.

Plan B. Call up the local food bank and say that your Special Education 
school for Adolescents has a garden and lots of fresh vegetables that you
originally thought would  be used in your school but because of bureacratic 
rules will not be served in the cafeteria.  You would like to donate these
the Food Bank and thus give the kids a sense of empowerment - they can do 
something to help.  After this has been running for a while, have a photo op

day with the principal, teachers, the students, the food bank and whatever 
local politician wants to horn in on a feel good photo op.  Invite a 
journalist , TV cameras, etc. for a feel-good story.  Then mention, ever so 
subtly, that you had originally wanted to serve the food in the cafeteria
thus lower the taxpayers expense on school lunch, but had run into a 
bureaucratic hurdle - and you KNOW that these rules are there for good 
reasons, even though you don't know why, so you have found giving the food
the Food Bank ever so much more rewarding as an experience for the students

Somehow, I think that you may find that serving food from your garden at the

school's cafeteria will be easier after that.  But also remember to make 
contributions, on a regular basis to the Food Bank.

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



Message: 3
From: "Corrie Zoll" <czoll@greeninstitute.org>
To: <community_garden@mallorn.com>
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 17:21:16 -0500
Subject: [cg] GreenSpace Partners Web Site

Minneapolis is knee-deep in some of the same community garden permanence
issues that are affecting other US cities.  I've just finished making some
major additions to our web site at http://www.greeninstitute.org/GSP.  I'd
appreciate it if you all could have a look at it and let me know if there's
anything I need to fix.  Pay special attention to the "Take a virtual garden
tour to explore the issues" section.


Corrie Zoll
Program Director, GreenSpace Partners
The Green Institute
2801 21st Avenue South, Suite 110
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Telephone 612-278-7119
Facsimile 612-278-7101


Message: 4
From: Adam36055@aol.com
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 22:10:25 EDT
Subject: Re: [cg] GreenSpace Partners Web Site
To: czoll@greeninstitute.org, community_garden@mallorn.com


Your site Green Space Partners Web Site is one of the best of its kind I
seen to date. It is wonderful!

 I would recommend your site to anyone who wanted to understand the benefits

community gardens offer to city neighborhoods and the dire challenges that 
they face at the hands of legislators and city planners who believe in 
building over gardens instead of the sensible and 
city- smart policy of housing AND gardens. 

Seeing that you asked, the only additions I would make to your site would be

the note that said that on every Saturday or Sunday at a community garden of

your choosing there would be someone trained by your local League of Women's

Voters ( or some group that does voter registration) to register every
eligible member of your garden communities and their friends and family to 
vote and that a Political Action Group of Community Garden Registered Voters

was making itself available to help electable, viable, main-line  political 
candidates get elected. 

Why viable, main-line political candidates than the great, minor-party 
candidates that we have all come to love?  Because if you are going to get 
legislation done, you need to have someone who can get elected and will come

to your gardens to kiss your babies and save them.

Under my signature, I've pasted the latest NYC Council Intro 206 which I 
think is a good piece of real world community garden legislation. I can send

you a word attachment for your website of the bill if you want to add it.

You guys are my heart,

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

nt. No. 206
By Council Members Serrano, Sanders, Addabbo, Rivera Jackson and Davis

A Local Law to amend the Administrative Code of the City of New York, in
relation to the establishment and maintenance of GreenThumb Community
Be it enacted by the Council as follows 
Section 1.  Legislative declaration.  The Council hereby finds and declares
that community gardeners make a significant contribution to the civic and
cultural life of cities all across America, are encouraged and supported by
government entities and create gathering places that bring communities
together across boundaries of age and ethnicity. 
The City of New York (hereinafter referred to as the "City") has less than
half the public parkland per capita of most American cities and most
community gardens tend to be in neighborhoods with the least amount of
public parkland. 
The City has one of the lowest open space standards for its citizens of any
metropolitan area in the country (only 2.5 acres per 1000 residents).
Thirty-three of New York City's 59 Community Planning Districts, or 56%, do
not meet even this meager open space standard, and 49% of the Districts have
less than 1.5 acres of open space per 1000 residents and are communities of
color where the non-white and Hispanic population exceeds 65%. 
The GreenThumb Community Gardens (hereinafter "GreenThumb Gardens") add
value to our City by providing services such as child-care, opportunities
for healthful physical activity, environmental education, cultural
activities and increasing adjacent real estate values.   In many of our
City's communities it costs a family of five people $15 in transportation
fees just to get to and from a green public space. 
The GreenThumb Gardens support community policing efforts by putting eyes on
the street, by enabling community improvement opportunities for people who
feel alienated from civic life and by working with young people. 
A survey of GreenThumb Gardeners by State Senator John Sampson's office in
1997 found that 57% of the respondents used the gardens for nature education
for young and older citizens, and 53% composted or recycled in the gardens.
The City's GreenThumb Gardens provide healthful food for people at the
bottom of the economic ladder while demonstrating to both young and old
where food comes from. 
The City has never created a comprehensive planning document that includes
GreenThumb Gardens as part of a neighborhood or citywide infrastructure yet
affordable housing and accessible green open spaces like GreenThumb Gardens
work together to improve the overall quality of life in a neighborhood.
These verdant spaces provide oases of peace and calm for all in a City that
is under-served in the areas of gardening, horticulture, recreational
opportunities and natural areas.       
Finally, the estimated $53 million per year in sweat equity and
contributions of their own funds to pay for GreenThumb Garden expenses made
by garden volunteers should not be overlooked. 
The City Council, therefore, seeks to set up a fair and equitable system for
allowing communities to create new GreenThumb Gardens and to formally apply
for the preservation of GreenThumb Gardens in their neighborhoods. 
2. Chapter one of Title 18 of the Administrative Code of the City of New
York is hereby amended by the addition of a new section 18-132 to read as
 18-132 GreenThumb Community Gardens. 
a. Definitions. For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall
have the following meanings: 
1. "GreenThumb Community Garden" or "GreenThumb Garden" is a plot or plots
of City-owned land, registered with GreenThumb and designed, built and
maintained by a Garden Group with technical assistance from GreenThumb, to
provide open space, community programming and/or food, and to beautify
2. "Community Garden Group" or "Garden Group" is a volunteer group of
gardeners and/or other concerned citizens, which, pursuant to an agreement
with the City, establishes and maintains a GreenThumb Community Garden. 
3. "GreenThumb Garden Trust" or "GreenThumb" shall be a non-profit
corporation or local development corporation that offers technical and
material assistance to Community Garden Groups that enter management
agreements with it, and holds title in perpetuity to those GreenThumb
Gardens that qualify for permanent garden status, expressly for the
protection of such spaces for public use. 
4. "Management Agreement" shall be a two-year, renewable and revocable
agreement between GreenThumb and a Garden Group outlining the maintenance
and management responsibilities that the Garden Group must fulfill to
operate a GreenThumb Garden, and the material assistance GreenThumb will
provide to the Garden Group in return. 
5. "Department of Parks and Recreation" or "Parks" shall be the New
York City Department of Parks and Recreation. 
b. Designation. Any GreenThumb Garden created pursuant to this local law,
shall be designated and labeled as a "GreenThumb Community Garden" in City
land use records, including but not limited to the Integrated Property
Information System (IPIS) and City tax maps, but not including the City
Zoning Resolution. 
c. Management Agreements. All GreenThumb Gardens shall be transferred to the
Department of Parks and Recreation, to be administered by the GreenThumb
Garden Trust. The GreenThumb Garden Trust shall enter a management agreement
with the Department of Parks and Recreation ("Parks") for the management of
all GreenThumb Gardens, and shall establish sub-management agreements
("Management Agreements") with each GreenThumb Garden. Where a GreenThumb
Garden shall have been registered prior to the effective date of this local
law, a Management Agreement shall be signed between GreenThumb and the
Garden Group within ninety (90) days of the effective date of this local
d. Permanent Garden Status. 
1. GreenThumb shall establish, with the approval of the City Planning
Commission, a procedure through which registered Garden Groups shall have
the opportunity to apply via the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP),
Section 197-c of the New York City Charter, for permanent garden status
through transfer of title of such property to the GreenThumb Garden Trust,
under the jurisdiction of the City Department of Parks and Recreation. Where
an application for conveyance of the property title to the GreenThumb Garden
Trust is approved pursuant to a resolution adopted by the City Council, the
City shall convey such title to the GreenThumb Garden Trust for the sum of
one dollar ($1.00). 
2. Should a GreenThumb Garden not be approved for permanent garden statusand
such property has not been requested for development by a City agency or
private developer, the Garden Group may continue to manage the land for
successive two-year terms and may reapply for permanent garden status after
a period of two (2) years from the date of such denial. 
3. Should a GreenThumb Garden be approved for permanent garden status the
property shall be transferred to the GreenThumb Garden Trust to be managed
by the Garden Group in accordance with such rules as shall be established by
the GreenThumb Garden Trust. The City Council resolution approving such
permanent garden status shall be a recordable instrument that shall be
recorded with the deed to such real property. The Department of Parks and
Recreation shall retain a right of reverter so that if at any time Parks and
the GreenThumb Garden Trust determine that the Garden Group is not managing
the GreenThumb Garden in accordance with the established management rules,
the property shall revert to Parks.
e. Development of GreenThumb Garden. If any City-owned property containing a
registered GreenThumb Garden is requested by any City agency or private
developer for development or for any use other than as a GreenThumb Garden,
such action must be approved through a full review in accordance with the
Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), Section 197-c of the New York
City Charter. The property so requested for development must be identified
as a GreenThumb Garden in all plans, documents, meetings and hearings
related to such development proposal.
f. Alternative GreenThumb Garden Site. If, after completion of ULURP, the
GreenThumb Garden property is approved for development or some use other
than as a GreenThumb Garden, the Department of City Planning shall work with
the Garden Group to identify a nearby alternative site of at least the same
size for a replacement GreenThumb Garden or shall seek to incorporate space
for a replacement GreenThumb Garden within the proposed development before
the original GreenThumb Garden property is altered in any way or title for
such property is conveyed. The provisions of this local law relating to
Management Agreements and the opportunity for permanent garden status shall
apply to such replacement GreenThumb Garden. 
g. New GreenThumb Gardens. A minimum of five neighborhood residents may
apply to the City on such forms as GreenThumb shall proscribe, to manage a
City-owned vacant lot, or several such adjacent lots, as a new GreenThumb
Garden for a term of two years, subject to review of any existing
development plans for the property. Applicants must have a letter of support
from the local Community Board for the area in which the GreenThumb Garden
will be located.   Management Agreements for new GreenThumb Gardens may be
cancelled for non-compliance with the GreenThumb rules of operation. After
such initial two-year management term, the Garden Group shall have the
opportunity to propose the GreenThumb Garden for permanent garden status
under the same mechanism as provided for existing gardens in Section (d).
Should a Garden Group not wish to apply for permanent status, it may
continue to renew its Management Agreement for additional two-year terms.
The City may cancel any GreenThumb Garden Management Agreement upon ninety
(90) days' notice should there be a development or other proposal for such
GreenThumb Garden property where such disposition has been reviewed and
approved through ULURP. 
3. Severability. If any provision of this local law or application thereof
is adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such
judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder thereof, and
the remainder of this local law, and the application thereof to other
persons or circumstances shall not be affected by such holding and shall
remain in full force and effect. 
4. This local law shall take effect immediately.



Message: 5
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 09:54:32 -0400 (EDT)
From: gordonse@one.net
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Subject: [cg] A washingtonpost.com article from: gordonse@one.net

You have been sent this message from gordonse@one.net as a courtesy of the
Washington Post - http://www.washingtonpost.com 
 The Plot Ripens, an article from the Washington Post.

 To view the entire article, go to
 The Plot Ripens
 By Ann Gerhart
  After work, with the midsummer dusk still hours away, Agustin Cruz carries
his aluminum lawn chair out of the steaming brick box of his Brightwood
apartment building.
  He crosses the street, steps past the case of Corona empties and the
junked car battery, and sets that fraying chair down next to the lush bounty
of the Fort Stevens community garden.
  Cruz holds a tortilla in one hand and a sheaf of practice test questions
in the other. He is an electrician from El Salvador preparing for his U.S.
citizenship. This is where he likes to study. Not far away, his garden
grows: carrots, pinto beans.
  Just behind him, red corn from Ecuador sways in the breeze. Sweet potatoes
from Georgia, callaloo from Jamaica, squash from Nigeria, heirloom tomatoes
and peppers and string beans, lemon balm and curry, marigolds and nuclear
purple balls of leek gone to seed all push up through the soil. The air is
fragrant. The catbirds sing. The impatient horns of evening rush hour on
nearby Georgia Avenue don't even carry here.
  Cruz's 6-year-old son, Agustin, darts about. "I have carrots!" he says. He
and his sister, Ruby, helped their grandmother plant them. Carrots are
age-old sustenance. Their feathery tops look delicate next to the sturdy
symmetry of the family's dozens of bushy pinto bean vines.
  There are community gardens all over the city. There are 50 garden plots
in this particular swatch of shared National Park Service land on 13th
Street NW and Fort Stevens Drive. All it takes to get one here is $10 rent a
year and a person's word to weed and mulch and harvest and be a good garden
neighbor. Bargain, friendship and food, all at once. And a place to prepare
for citizenship. There's a waiting list.
  The gardeners are not mere hobbyists; they are urban farmers feeding
families and tending traditions. At Fort Stevens they are American blacks
retired from teaching and the military and the federal government, some of
them working the soil for 16 seasons now, and a few white folks. There are
immigrants from Ghana and Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Jamaica, El Salvador and
  "And Eddie? Is he from the Middle East?" Johannes Metz asks of head
gardener Corinia Prince as they push hair off their damp foreheads, shade
their eyes and survey the 20-foot-square plots. Metz, who is so devoted to
the garden that he frequently tills other people's soil, is from the
Netherlands. But when he is asked  his country of origin, he says, "the same
planet as you." 
  Metz has grown fond of purslane, the succulent and peppery creeper used
for salads. It has spread all over the Fort Stevens gardens. A plant like
this is called a "volunteer." Its seeds drift in on the wind, or burst from
last season's overlooked and overripe fruit. If it doesn't get torn out for
its impertinence, and it's treated as the insistence of nature that it is,
the volunteer is greeted with delight. And that is how human relations grow
at community gardens, without design or strategy or too much introspection.
It doesn't take sociologists and city planners to make a garden work.
  "We come to know each other," says Vivian Clark, who lives in Dupont
Circle and has gardened at Fort Stevens since the early '80s. "We learn from
each other. You look around. One year somebody plants something, and it
comes along, and the next year, four other people are growing the same
  "Take the stuff [you read] from books, the stuff from Africa, the stuff
from Caribbean, the stuff from the Spanish," says Metz, "and everything gets
combined. And everything is good."
  And sure enough, here is Kari Traure, who demurs that she is better
speaking in French, because that is what she grew up with in West Africa. At
dusk, she is slowly walking the bark mulch paths, scrutinizing her
neighbors' plots, learning to do what they do, acclimating, and her mind's
notes come in a universal language of food that bridges many a gap. 
  The community garden in the hot, struggling city is a metaphor for so much
-- the unity of humanity, the good earth, the virtue of toil and so much
that is otherwise lacking in the concrete jungle. Butt the tillers of this
soil are not terribly interested in metaphor.
  They like to grow things. Then they like to eat what they grow. They don't
analyze it much.
 New Victory Gardens
  Cultivating the soil to produce food was not instinctive. Early man was
restless. He hunted and foraged, killed and ate, grazed and moved on. The
beginning of agrarian culture was the beginning of an organized society.
People learned to stay put and cooperate toward a shared goal -- survival.
They heeded the cycle of the stars, the sun and the rains. They gained
memory, season to season. They kept recordds. They fought wars over their
cities and food. Over time, the ruling classes found a little leisure in the
  By its very nature, growing food is civilizing. It imposes an order and
rhythm. Here, it unifies a stratified city. It seeds the pride of
  Urban gardening in and around Washington is not used as aggressively for
community-building and neighborhood beautification as it is in other cities.
  In New York, community gardens are so fiercely guarded that when former
mayor Rudy  Giuliani moved to sell 115 of them, the howls hit the front
pages of the tabloids. Bette Midler's nonprofit  bought the lot of them for
$4.2 million.
  In Philadelphia, for some 25 years, the model program Philadelphia Green
has helped residents in struggling neighborhoods reclaim abandoned lots and
provoked City Hall to tear down condemned buildings and tow rusted cars.
Then the folks turn the space into vest-pocket parks and gardens exploding
with color and fresh produce.
  In the District, where most of the 1,200 plots across some 30 gardens are
on Park Service or city-owned space, such neighborhood revitalization
happens only occasionally. But when it does, the green space is a new
variety of victory garden.
  In Petworth, Lutheran Social Services reclaimed a lot near its Georgia
Avenue headquarters and established a garden for its mental health clients.
"We have a crack house in the neighborhood, and that lot used to be the
party place at night," says LeeAnn Schray, a pastor who runs the agency's
gardening programs. "But since we have put the garden in, there's not as
many condoms and nickel bags as we used to see. The dealers know we are
  Like the volunteer plant, a spontaneous social program sprouted: The kids
who live on the block come work the dirt. "They think it's fun, and so they
hang around," says Schray.
  There is comfort in this camaraderie, just as there is comfort in the
inevitability of fruit following blossom, especially this year.
  "I like to use pretty little ties to stake the tomatoes," says Corinia
Prince at Fort Stevens. "This year, I got these red, white and blue ones,
with stars. You know, because of the attacks."
  She is a retired widow of 63 raising her two grandsons, 11 and 17, since
her son died some years back. She had her first child at age 16 -- "And I
have no regrets about that, it was wonderful," she says firmly -- but hers
is still a life that has seen its troublees. "I come up here at 8 in the
morning and get lost doing things and I look up and it's 2 in the
afternoon," she says. "This is my therapy. Imogene is the one who got me
  "Imogene is the one who introduced me to callaloo," says Vivian Clark,
referring to the Caribbean vine used to stretch rice and soup or served up
as wilted greens with onions and herbs. "Imogene is quite the cook."
  Imogene Freeburn is a secretary raised on a farm in Jamaica, and when she
moved to Crittenden Street in Brightwood years ago, she was so hungry for
growing "would you believe I had string beans in the window box?" She is
Prince's neighbor on the street, and the tempting smells from her kitchen
and the fresh vegetables she proffered finally compelled Prince to get her
own garden plot three years ago. 
  Freeburn's plot at Fort Stevens erupts with tomatoes and peppers and beans
and callaloo grown from seeds hand-carried from Jamaica. There is pungent
yellow curry and lemon balm and two kinds of thyme for the jerk sauce, and
chives and leeks and mulberries and marigolds to repel insects. There are
sweet potatoes and tomatillos, which Freeburn learned about from the
Hispanic gardeners and came to love in stir-fries. There are strawberries,
tiny and red and sweet, hiding under their leaves, a treasure hunt prize for
Freeburn's grandchildren.
  In Southeast, at the edge of Capitol Hill, there's an enchanting secret
garden in the middle of a block, hidden from view behind the buildings. It's
called the Kings Court community garden, and it's between 14th and 15th
streets near South Carolina Avenue -- it sits on land where a grand dream
for community development and job creation withered on the vine.
  An organization called Garden Resources of Washington helped the neighbors
take over the deed to the land. "People can all do for themselves, but we
can assist people to follow their vision," says Judy Tiger, GROW's executive
director. "We help them to see they are gardening for themselves and for
something called togetherness. There are expectations and commitments
  "The first year, we laid out the plots and exhausted ourselves building
the fence," which stays locked, says Pat Taylor. She lives nearby and grows
three kinds of peas and eggplant and okra and lemongrass at Kings Court.
"The second year, we had no water that year at all. People had to carry in
their own. The third year, a neighbor allowed us to hook up to his outdoor
spigot, and we pay his whole water bill." And now, after six years, "we
certainly have a friendship group," says Taylor. "We have a social
chairwoman now, and she has scheduled one happy hour and one potluck dinner
in the garden every month." 
 Beauty and Mystery
  At Fort Stevens, with salsa music thumping through the unscreened windows
of the apartment building, Prince saunters over to have a look at what Earl
Randolph has going. They stand there quietly, two farmers taking inventory.
She has her gray hair plaited and stuck through the back of her baseball
cap, and her thumbs are hooked in the back pockets of her beige coveralls.
He is wearing an Augusta National Golf Club bucket hat his wife got him for
a quarter at a yard sale. His sweet potato vines are lovely tidy mounds of
green, sitting like princesses on their raised rows.
  "You want some?" Randolph asks Prince. 
  "I have sweet potatoes!" she tells him.
  "I bet you don't got ones like this," he teases. "These are Georgia reds."
  Who's first? Who's best? Who's neatest? This competition is all part of
gardening side-by-side, and some years, there's even a formal contest, with
blue ribbons for best garden and best crop.
  There is gardening just for beauty, which is a different need from
nutrition. Vivian Clark grows lemon balm to sprinkle in her bath water, and
seven-feet-tall hollyhocks, which bow gracefully over the leek flowers. 
  There is surprise. As the head gardener in charge of reminding people to
tend their plots, Prince once told Clark she needed to do something about
her weeds. "And she said, 'Come over here, I got something to show you,' and
I bent down and she moved aside the leaves, and she said, 'That's peanuts,'
and I was flabbergasted!" says Prince. This year, there's a plot for
schoolchildren in a George Washington Carver Outdoor School program, and
they are getting the same lesson, "learning that carrots don't come from the
store," says Jawara Kasimu-Graham, who directs the environmental program. 
  Sometimes, there is mystery. Why has the robust red leaf lettuce in a
particular plot been left to wilt in the summer heat? Where is the gardener?
"He's gone away for a while," Randolph tells Prince when she asks. He is
gone away long enough that Randolph and Metz have decided to take over his
  Sometimes, there is tension. People in the apartment building come out
after dark and drink their beer and toss their trash about. Or red tomatoes
that were clinging to the vine one evening have vanished the next morning.
"You have to handle some with kid gloves," says Prince, "but mostly, we work
it out. We help each other when we're sick."
  Robert Adejayan, a lobby attendant at the Watergate Hotel, claws around a
plant with a long-handled cultivator. "We call this Nigerian squash," he
says, pointing. "When it crawls, we cut off the stem and the leaves and eat
it, maybe with a little onion, like the collard greens." He has brought the
seeds from Nigeria. 
  Where the nearby supermarket shelves groan with freeze-dried,
reconstituted, powderized substitutes of fresh food, Brightwood's community
gardeners speak in a  language nearly archaic in this fast-food nation. They
put up jars of vegetables, as in "I put up a quart of beets the other day
for my daughter," says Randolph, who is 69 and retired from the Army. "I
just grow them for her. I don't even like 'em."
  They root for abundance. They want more than they can eat in a week. They
give the food away. They juice their tomatoes, freeze their beans and diced
greens and squash. The Cruz family, like most of the other Hispanic
gardeners, grow enough pinto beans that they can eat those beans, shelled
and dried, most of the winter.



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