If the first phase of the summer season could be characterized by careful cultivation, planting and weeding (at least in theory…), the second phase can only be described as a frenzied spurt of activity as the garden began, in late July through early August, to burst into life.
Perhaps most notably, the tomato plants unclenched their fruit as bright red and yellow flesh ignited through the green foliage. Someone told me, after sampling some sweet cherry tomatoes, that it was like eating sunshine. These moments amaze me; when nature, seemingly without prompting, yields true treasures: a word that isn’t chosen lightly. As more and more communities and households find themselves in food poverty, the simplicity of fruits and vegetables cultivated with one’s own hands, alongside one’s neighbors and friends, becomes a precious commodity as well as a sort of lost art.
Truly, foraging through leaves, stems and yes, most certainly some weeds, in search of a dazzling purple eggplant or a herculean zucchini feels a lot like a quest for treasure or an easter egg hunt. In a garden, there are rewards. This however, implies challenges; obstacles from which, I think, rewards derive their value.
The Bennett Homes Community garden, like any other, provides a fair share of challenges. Obviously there is the challenge of working the land in order to produce something, namely fruits or vegetables. Here, the payoff is literal and rendered in physical terms; you work hard and sweat, dirt, water and sunlight come together to produce our harvests. But the same equation applies to community building, albeit with different components which are less tangible and perhaps more elusive. In the latter case, though, hard work and a governing sense of cultivation are essential.
This summer, the garden workers in conjunction with the CHA and several community members and friends sought to rear a literal space—the garden—as well as figurative one, that of a growing, thriving community. The first steps have been to invite people in and to hire helpers from the community itself as a means of breaking down any perceived barriers. After all, the garden is not the possession of any one person or group of people, not even the workers or the CHA, but in fact is a shared place for people to mutually care for, together.
As we move forward, this message needs to be broadcasted more loudly and clearly. That it hasn’t been, is a failing on my part.
Now, we’re looking to integrate various facets and resources from the surrounding area, such as the Booker T. Washington Center where classes and community activities are regularly held, in order to construct a more comprehensive plan moving forward. We want to see how these parts and people can work in conjunction. At any rate, it’s an exciting time. There are more things growing and on the horizon looms the fall season.