The community garden movement, it appears, has taken root across our nation. In cities and in hamlets, people are planting veggies and herbs for their own dining tables. Indeed, in the wake of the current economic downturn, the practice of growing one’s own food feels somehow reassuring, practical, perhaps even patriotic. In addition to lower food bills, widely touted benefits include fostering self-sufficiency and community while reducing or even eliminating transportation costs and carbon footprints.
Recently E-Bay, the online market for just about everything, began providing garden plots to its employees, citing, among other benefits, their value in helping to develop problem-solving skills—skills that, not incidentally, benefit the company.
And then there’s First Lady Michelle Obama, doing her part to popularize home-grown food, with her organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn.
For those without lawns, or yards, community gardens offer many a chance to grow their own food, too. Berkeley has long had a thriving community garden scene, in addition to successful related local institutions like farmers’ markets and “edible” schoolyards.
Now Berkeley is about to have one more community garden, on the 1600 block of Fifth Street in Northwest Berkeley. On Saturday, October 31, the Kenney Cottage Community Garden “broke ground.” There were refreshments, activities and a raffle. There was music, poetry and a martial arts demonstration, all by neighborhood people. And an opportunity to help plant a plant, build a raised wooden garden bed or scatter wildflower seeds, which many people participated in. It was heartwarming to see so many people there at the garden site last Saturday, helping to launch this project, including several Berkeley city councilmembers as well as members of Kappa Alpha Fraternity, who lent muscle to the task of building and planting.
We invite both Berkeley residents and those who work here to get involved in helping to build and grow, not just a garden, but a community of people who will lovingly create a structure and a process by which this space can become a resource for all the people of Berkeley. It will take people, dedication, resources—including money, and, yes, love—to transform what has been an unprepossessing dirt lot, located between Cedar and Virginia streets—and which the city of Berkeley is generously making available for this purpose—into a beautiful green space!
I invite people to become a member of Friends of Kenney Cottage Garden or of one of the other local organizations involved in creating this community resource—Northern California Land Trust, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, and Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative. Come to a meeting and/or help spread the word among fellow Berkeley residents, especially among those who lack yards or a place to grow.
For further information or if you’re interested in getting on a waiting list for a garden plot, call 526-7828.
Patty Marcks is President of Friends of Kenney Cottage Garden, a local organization formed to help support the development of the Kenney Cottage Garden project.