Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sharing Gardens Around the World

Sharing Gardens are growing -- around the world!
Sometimes Chris and I feel our faith weakening. We witness the enormity of the world's problems and wonder how our little project can even begin to make a difference. But then we'll hear of others who are implementing similar projects in other parts of the country, or around the world, and our spirits are lifted. This post features two of the many projects we've heard of in recent times. We hope their stories will lift your spirits as well.

Back around the New Year of 2012 we received a beautiful email from a young man in the Philippines, named Rey Mendoza. He had seen our Peak Moment video interview (LINK) and was inspired by our project. Faced with many similar challenges to those we experience here in the U.S., such as toxic agri-business farming practices, poor nutrition choices amongst people who just don't know any better, and a feeling of disconnect--a loss of community, Rey decided to start a Sharing Garden.

The joys of gardening start young.
Our email conversations have been rich in content and the teaching/learning goes both ways. We have sent along encouragement and tips on how to develop himself as a leader and teacher, and he has been educating us about his country. Once a lush and varied landscape of tropical fruits, now the most fertile lands have been cleared and planted with crops of bananas, pineapples and other high-demand fruits that are exported to feed people in wealthier countries. Because the farmers use modern practices of farming that use lots of chemicals, and don't replace the organic matter that comes with constant harvesting, their soil is being depleted and the ground-water polluted. Many Filipino farmers have been sold on the idea of chemical farming which, in the first few years, yields a surplus of produce. What they were never told is that their crops then become dependent on the chemicals and, after a few years, their yields steadily decline. They must apply more and more expensive chemicals and they get fewer and fewer returns for their money. Even though the majority of Filipino bananas go to Japan, this story is repeated in any tropical country that exports its fruit to America. This is why it is so important for consumers in America to insist on, and only buy, organic produce. Not only will we be eating healthier ourselves (without chemical residues in our food) but we will have a positive impact in the countries where the food is grown for export.
Bread Homes Sharing Gardens involves many children.
Though English is his second language, Rey writes beautifully. It is inspiring to read of his persistence in bringing his vision for a garden and community-center to life. Here is a link to his blog: Bread Home Sharing Gardens
Bread Home Sharing Gardens is a volunteer-run community gardening project in Davao City, Philippines open to people of all ages which practices and promotes an organic model of producing food and medicine. It also aims to educate and inspire others while building a community based on caring and empathy that will uphold the principle of sharing not only food and resources but also skills, knowledge, and other important things in life.
Back in January, when we first "met" Rey, we sent him a box of seeds. We researched the vegetables that we grow here that would also grow in his climate and shared extensively from our seed-bank. Most of the seeds we sent were ones we'd saved ourselves. We encouraged him to reach out to his community, as we have, to find materials and tools he could divert from the waste-stream. It was eye-opening to realize that, as an island, and with many people living in poverty, there really isn't much of a waste-stream. Everything that can be re-used, is re-used. For this reason we would like to appeal to the circle of people who read these posts. If you feel moved to support this worthy and inspiring project, we ask you to send a donation to us and we will forward it all to Rey and the Bread Homes Sharing Gardens.

Potatoes given out at San Francisco's Free Farm Stand
Closer to home, in the heart of San Francisco we have an example of a "Sharing"-type garden and gleaning project that thrives in an urban setting. The Free Farm and Free Farm Stand are the projects of a man who goes by the name of Tree. Tree was inspired by the "Diggers" in the Haight Ashbury District of San Francisco back in the 60's and 70's. The Diggers were known for giving away free food on the streets. They opened "stores" which simply gave away their stock: food, clothing and household items. Their clinics provided free medical care and the Diggers also helped people  who were in need of transportation and temporary living-shelter. The original Diggers were a group of displaced farmers in England during the mid-1600's who attempted to reclaim the Commons (land not owned by private individuals) to give access to food and housing to the poor of England. (LINK to Wiki article on the Diggers.)

The Free Farm is a garden started on land loaned by St. Paulus Church in San Francisco. Volunteers grow and harvest the produce while learning organic gardening techniques; much as we do at the Monroe Sharing Gardens. The food that is harvested, along with surplus from the local farmer's markets and produce gleaned in the city and from surrounding farms, is all brought to a public park and distributed weekly, free of charge, to any who come. In a recent email, Tree wrote to us, "Our project is similar to yours in that I am really trying to do more than just give free food away...I am trying to create a network of neighbors growing food and sharing their surplus with those in need."

San Fran's Free Farm Stand gives away food gleaned and grown in the Bay Area.
The Free Farm has been given notice that they may need to relocate from their current site. Here is a video from two women, Tash and Anna (students of the Academy of Art University) who have  been making a documentary, over a number of months, about the Free Farm. Tree said (on his own site) "I am posting it here because it is really great and it gets our philosophy down pat! The two women have an ending to the video which is what they thought "a call to action" should be. I think it is a bit premature as we actually have two to three years before we may have to move. The property we are on is owned by St. Paulus Church who is generously allowing us to grow food here to give away and we are a resurrection of their church that was here and burned down in 1995." Much could happen before the moving deadline arrives, so the urgency expressed in the video may be premature. But, if you live in the Bay Area - The Free Farm and Free Farm Stand could always use more volunteers.  Here is a LINK to the video. A LINK to the Free Farm blog and a LINK to the Free Farm Stand blog.

Monroe Sharing Garden - July 6, 2012
These projects are just two of the many we have heard of cropping up. It seems that people around the world are seeing the importance of learning to grow food without the use of harmful chemicals and are yearning for a connection with their neighbors. The urge to be generous towards those who are in need is one that needs cultivation wherever it springs up. It is good to know that these projects are taking root in cities, in rural areas and in other parts of the world as well.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
Here are links to other posts we've previously written about garden-sharing projects:

The Generous Garden Project in South Carolina, USA
Todmorden, England - a whole village working towards food self-sufficiency.

Yes we can grow celery here. Monroe, Oregon 2012