The quote above comes from a response to our Everybody Eats Discussion Questions. The garden being referenced was created by St. John's area resident Jocelyne Thomas, with some help from her neighbours, and some friends involved in community gardening. Together, they built and maintained two small raised beds, that anyone in the neighbourhood could use and enjoy.
We sat down with Jocelyne, to talk about this project.
Q: Why did you start this garden?
A: A number of reasons. For starters, I've been staring at that square of unused land for years, watching it get all the sunshine (when there is any) and being mowed twice or three times a summer, and thinking "someone should grow something there." The waste of land/sunshine was annoying me. My own garden is small and shaded, and while things grow there, it's really not conducive to much that is edible. I love growing food — even if it's only small amounts, and I want my child to learn both where food comes from and how to grow it. I figured I would put in some boxes, and it would either work and we'd have some lovely things growing, or the boxes/plants would get trashed and that would be the end of the experiment. I'm a pragmatic idealist, if that's possible.
Q: What have people been saying about it?
A: A number of people living in neighbourhood have expressed interest in either participating (planting some things in these and/or the next boxes we put in — I have two more planned) or in providing support e.g. buying dirt or plants, contributing some money towards cost of lumber. Passersby have been admiring the boxes and the effort, and I've been encouraging people to take some lettuce, snip some herbs, and (eventually) grab some tomatoes. The reaction has been extremely positive, from all age ranges. I've had tourists take pictures of the boxes.
Q: How did you go about putting it all together?
A: After seeking advice about who to talk to with the City of St. John's, I sent some emails, got some information, got permission to use the land and some specifics the City required (e.g., because it's at the corner of two streets, boxes and plants cannot be taller than 80cm in order to not obstruct driver sight lines). Then I got the lumber and built the boxes with the help of our neighbour, and another neighbour provided the dirt, and we rounded up some plants, and there you go. The longest part of the process was getting permission from the city.
Q: What would you say to someone who might want to start something like this in their area?
A: Plant some things. Flowers, berries, food plants, or just something you like to look at. Find a piece of land — big or small it doesn't matter - that is unused, neglected, and dig it up. Get milk crates and line them with plant cloth, use old jars, whatever. You don't need to build big boxes. Anything that holds dirt and water, and gets a decent amount of sun in a day will do. You may want to check if the piece of land belongs to someone or to the city, and get permission — but a little guerrilla gardening never hurt anyone! It doesn't have to cost much or anything — just a little work and time. Talk to your neighbours. Get them involved. If one person does a thing, other people will follow.
This project is just one example of the many types of small, but incredibly meaningful, actions people can take to contribute to the growing food movement, and toward a province where all people, at all times, have access to healthy, fresh, affordable, culturally appropriate food.