This piece appeared in Kansas' "The Wichita Eagle" today. Would that the NY Times, Washington Post, or other newspaper of record put this on their editorial page. Must be some pretty smart people out there in Wichita!
Posted on Wed, May. 05, 2004
Community gardens grow more than tomatoes and carrots -- they grow citizens and neighbors. That's why it's great to see several community gardens thriving in Wichita.
The community gardening movement started in America in the 1960s, and today there are 6,000 community gardens nationwide, including at least four in Wichita.
Organizing a garden with other folks, and sustaining it, is not an easy task. Several key factors have to come together, including available land, access to water, and especially the right group of gardeners who have the determination and patience to overcome the many hurdles.
But the hard work can pay off, because these gardens offer a host of benefits beyond broccoli: They often rehabilitate unused, vacant lots that are magnets for dumping and crime. They provide additional green space in cities (such as Wichita) that have a shortage of parks. And they bring people together and grow community.
The site of the Hilltop Community Garden in southeast Wichita used to be an illegal dumping area. Then a small group of visionary gardeners, with help from Sedgwick County Extension and other sponsors, cleaned it up, brought in new soil, and designed a garden space.
Before long, it was growing more than fresh vegetables -- it was producing citizens, nurturing friendships and inspiring the neighborhood to pursue further improvements.
Wichita has three other established community gardens: the Good Harvest Community Garden near 13th and West streets, the beautiful public vegetable garden at the Adorers of the Blood of Christ convent on Southwest Boulevard, and the Garden of Eat'n at Garvey Park in south Wichita.
Gardens are remarkably flexible community-building tools. There is untapped potential for school learning gardens, rehabilitative gardens for mental and disabled patients, and gardens for seniors, among others.
Individuals or groups interested in starting a community garden or just learning more about effective neighborhood organizing should attend a training session by national experts Friday and Saturday at Inter-Faith Ministries, 829 N. Market; call Justin Russell at (316) 264-9303, ext. 113. Or check out the resources at the American Community Gardening Association's Web site, www.communitygarden.org.
For the board, Randy Scholfield