I volunteer from time to time to document workshops run by Just Food , a terrific non-profit organization that (among other valuable activities) offers educational support to community gardens.
A few nights ago, I headed down to a workshop called The Full Treatment on Raised Beds which was co-sponsored by Just Food and Green Thumb , a New York City organization that promotes these gardens by giving away plants and tools in addition to hosting workshops like this one. According to the organization’s web site, Green Thumb offers the largest community garden program in the country. Mighty impressive.
This workshop was held at the M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden within the Sara Roosevelt Park. When I exited the subway at Grand Street, I was on the border of the ever-expanding Chinatown impinging upon what little is left of what I remember as a very Jewish deli-filled Lower East Side.
I walked a few blocks along Chrystie Street and turned into the garden which occupies a very large space about 3 blocks long in the central meridian of Chrystie. It’s odd that a garden this large could come upon me as such a surprise when I’ve walked past it many times, but there’s something about the way it’s tucked into the middle of a wide street that really threw me off.
What threw me off even more was encountering a rooster and two chickens quite near the entry. The chickens were in a cage, but the rooster appeared to be roaming freely.
A group of about 30 people of all ages (children to elderly) from community gardens in all of the boroughs had gathered to learn about how to construct and maintain raised beds for growing vegetables. “The advantage of growing vegetables in a raised bed,” explained Just Food trainer Greg Anderson, “is that you can fill it with good quality soil. It’s also makes access so much easier for the physically impaired and anyone who has trouble bending.” (“That’s me,” I thought.)
Anderson broke the crowd into two: one to repair a raised bed that was in bad shape, and another to construct a raised bed from lumber supplied by Green Thumb. Then it began to rain, but the stalwarts stayed on to learn new skills. They were also awaiting a reward: After the workshop, those who had applied earlier got to pick up enough lumber to build their own raised bed. The lumber was provided for free and I see from the Green Thumb calendar that there will be plant give-aways next month. Good deal! What a great program.
Now I have ask Owen Taylor, Just Food’s Livestock Co-ordinator, about the rooster and chickens!
But I also have to pay attention to the hard work of an organization called New York City Garden Coalition . At the NYC Grows festival yesterday in Union Square, I picked up a brochure written by this organization that made me very nervous. Although over half of New York City’s gardens are safe, 153 of the thriving gardens that exist today are not protected from the claws of developers.
I’m going to look into joining the coalition and helping out. Even if almost all of the old Jewish delis are gone, it’s great to be able to stumble upon roosters and chickens on the Lower East Side and I want to make sure it stays that way.
Greg Anderson (left, of Just Food) and Rasheed Hislop (right, of Green Thumb) explain how to repair a raised bed in the M'Finda Kalunga Community Garden on the Lower East Side.