The Hands We Have Touched that Have Touched Us Back
Posted Aug 04 2009 5:38pm
So a woman named Kathryn Wasserman Davis got an idea about how to celebrate her 100th birthday in 2007. She decided to give away a million dollars to 100 projects for peace. But that's not all. These projects had to originate from college students. The projects deemed the most do-able each received $10,000. The Davis Projects for Peace program was so successful that Mrs. Davis continued it in 2008 and again in 2009.
Enter David Baron. Or, wait, let me back up. Enter Roy Baron. Roy is David's dad, and a local friend of mine. He is the garden director of Garden Isaiah at Temple Emmanue-El. He is a retired Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist and a committed advocate of social justice, specifically through making healthy food available to the hungry. 100% of the food grown at Garden Isaiah is donated to those in need.
So I've been hanging out with Roy from time to time, and you want to make his face light up, you just ask about David.
David is a 20-year-old college student in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Last summer, David taught bio-intensive agriculture to Tanzanian farmers in order to increase production and promote resource conservation. This summer, he interned with Growing Power's Chicago office to further develop his understanding of urban agriculture and food access. And right now, David is using the Davis Projects for Peace grant he was awarded (along with two other grants) for creating HOPE Gardens, a transitional employment program in an urban farm and community garden that aims to reestablish local homeless people as independent, productive citizens and as contenders in the future job market.
I stood with Roy and David and several others recently in the little field where the sidewalk ends that will soon become our community garden. And we talked about mulch and plot size and the best methods for increasing the amount of food to donate and about what brought us there, that day, in the intermittent rain, among people who were strangers just moments or months before.
I looked at Fred Conrad, a man who grew up dirt poor in Appalachia and now serves as the Atlanta Community Food Bank liaison to 150 community gardens in the Atlanta area.
"I feel like my whole life prepared me for this job," Fred told me.
I looked at Rebecca, who lived in a homeless shelter after her parents divorced, and then a decrepid trailer park where her bike was stolen her first night there.
"And now look at me, in a nice house, starting a community garden."
I looked at the whip-smart 13-year-old and a mellow 17-year-old who are going to help build compost piles, and a baby who has no idea he is about to grow up in this spot, among these people.
I looked back at Roy and David, a father and son who, by the way, never gardened when David was growing up and now share a passion so strong, a root so deep, that they almost flow as one when they are together. Look at those hands in that picture. Look at those hands. Does your grown child rest his or her hand like that so comfortably on your shoulder? Does your father wrap his hand so proudly around your waist?
The website for HOPE Gardens will be up soon (I'll let you know when). In the meantime, here is some info about it from David's proposal
Sitting on a 14 acre tract of land, including young growth and old growth pine forest and a pond, the HOPE Gardens area will be leased for $1 per year from the Town of Chapel Hill. The land sits off of Homestead Road in Chapel Hill. Designated for the future Chapel Hill-Carrboro greenway, the land is nestled between existing and developing residential neighborhoods. HOPE Gardens will preserve green space and biodiversity in the area, expected to be nearly urban in 5-10 years, and the Gardens will beautify the proposed greenway. Across the street from the women and children’s homeless shelter, a block down the road from the proposed location of the new men’s homeless shelter, and a quarter mile from a free bus line, the land and project are positioned for success and sustainability.
HOPE Gardens will break ground in summer of 2009. Phase one includes a .19 acre fenced plot that will house vegetable, herb, and flower gardens as well as fruit bushes and vines. In addition, about one fourth of this area will be devoted to individual plots specifically for community members. Other phase one developments include a cut flower meadow over the septic field and a distributed fruit and nut tree orchard, likely containing 45 trees.
I am awestruck, yet again, at how the world's energy works to focus resources and knowledge and possibility. I'm thankful that a 102-year-old woman invested in the future through people like David Baron. And I'm humbled to be standing in that little field with such an amazing group of people, our first seed yet to be planted in the ground yet the number of hands we have touched and that have touched us back growing in surprising directions with each passing day.