The gardeners of Carver Peace Gardens, which is located on the grounds of Carver Park, located at 322 West Watauga Ave in Johnson City, held a potluck and social tonight. Our African gardener brought a dish of rice with okra and another of chicken, tomatoes and Habaneros, all native to his homeland. Another fellow brought a squash, tomato and pepper soup, along with a cucumber salad. We feasted on a macaroni pesto made with lots of basil, yellow squash, zucchini and peppers. There was a tomatilla/mango salsa, homemade kale chips, a big pot of fresh green beans with red potatoes and even some brownies and homemade mint/ginger ale to wash it all down with! We grew 99% of what we ate, there was enough for everyone and best of all, we enjoyed just being together, breaking bread together. After our dinner, we were joined by a local Johnson City Police Sargent, who offered us tips on forming a ‘neighborhood watch’ program for the garden.
Between the gardening, new friends, great food and communal bond we all share, I am seeing first hand that community gardens really can aid in strengthening community, while helping us all to become more self-sufficient and resilient as we strive to make that complete circle from seed to table to compost bin and finally, back to the soil. We are already beginning to make plans for our fall gardens, we’ve constructed some compost bins and are learning how to identify and deal with insect pests and plant diseases.
One of the nicest thing about community gardening is the help you can receive (and give!). If you want to go away for a vacation, usually just putting out the word to the others is all it takes to assure that your plot will be watered and harvested during your absence. One of our elderly gardeners asked for help with tilling and planting and we proved that ‘many hands make light work’. One fellow enjoys sharpening our tools and recently made a tool rack in the shed for them. Another sprays all the plots with insecticidal soap once a month or so, while one group plot donates all their harvests to local food pantries and kitchens. It’s not always easy and not always perfect, but the benefits certainly outweigh the negatives and as we enter the middle of our fifth growing season, I am sensing a peace there that has grown and blossomed right along with the corn and tomatoes. Would you consider finding a park or vacant lot in your neighborhood that might be used to grow peace and vegetables too? If so, I’d be willing to offer my experience in seeing it become a reality.
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