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The 150K Community Garden

  • Subject: [cg] The 150K Community Garden
  • From: "Jim Call" jimcall@casagarden.com
  • Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2002 21:47:06 -0500

 As previously promised (for Deborah Mills), the 150K Community Garden story (go get some coffee, this may take a while... AH).
A Little Background:  As many of you know, Alabama, for the most part is not exactly the metropolis of many of our northern states so therefore the term "community garden" for the most part is unknown in this state.  In fact, most of the folks in my city of Huntsville are unaware of the CASA Community Garden.  Ninety-eight percent (98 %) of those who know of our garden call it the CASA Garden, its original name.  About 3 or so years again, I asked CASA to change its name to the CASA Community Garden because its exist only because of community volunteers.
Here we go:  This past April, I received a call from a Master Gardener in a small town in LA, that's Lower Alabama in these parts.  This lady had been in the audience when I was conducting a session at our state MG conference.  She called to asked for help for a lady who was starting up a community garden in her small town of less than 5,000 (for privacy purposes, all names will remain anonymous).  So she begins to describe how this particular lady who hadn't lived in the town too long had received a federal grant for 150K to start up a community garden.  She had to spend about 50K per year (3 years) on this program.  So as I understood it, she had been granted the used of an abandoned football field (hard to believe in Alabama) and had spent money on prepping the site and installing an underground sprinkler system with individual spigots for individual plots.  The purpose of the grant was to help provide vegetables to the poor (most were) in this rural town/county. 
Envision This:  So... here we sit with a huge open field primed for planting in the height of spring all ready for these community gardeners to pay $25.00 per year to garden in their individual irrigated plot.  What a deal, if you live in downtown NY, but in rural Alabama, well you guessed it, nobody was interested.  This lady had group meetings with church and civic groups to try to convince them to come to her "community" garden.  So, this lady on the phone was asking me for advice on correcting the problem.  I told her "you can't put a round peg in a square hole".  Period.   I asked her why would anyone in their right mind want to drive their old broken down gas guzzler (most rural poor do not own the most gas efficient vehicles) half away across the county to garden in a small plot.  Plus, someone is asking them to pay money to use this tiny plot.  You got to be kidding.  Most small town folks have a garden 10 times this size in their backyard.  It's right outside their backdoor and "Hey, its free!".
I asked how this lady had gotten the idea that a  "community garden" of this type would work in this environment?  "Well" she said. "she doesn't come from these parts".  I said, "where did she come from?".  She said she lived most of her life in a northern state where they used to have gardens like this. 
I'm not sure how they resolved their dilemma, but I wish (as most of you do) the CASA Community Garden could have some of that grant money.  I never heard from her again.
When I get some time, maybe I will tell about:   Gino, the Italian photographer and his models comes to the garden or
                                                                     Seinfeld (well kind of, NYC) volunteers in the garden    or
                                                                     The Okra Pickin' Engineer    or
                                                                     CASA Community Garden harvested record tomato crop after
                                                                           spraying the plants with a defoliant.
Most stories are not as long as the one
above. I plan to update the www.casagarden.com
website this winter.  I want to add a special
page dedicated to short stores and advice in the garden.
Hope you enjoyed, 
Jim Call, CASA Community Garden Volunteer Director
PS - cross your fingers, if it doesn't rain tonight, the "ripper" is coming to the garden.  (http://www.casagarden.com/ripper.html)
Film at 11. 

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