Musings of an urban gardener


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      by Kirtrina Baxter | 05/12/2014
      Philadelphia Community Gardening Story

      Rockland St. Community Garden-after
      Spring is fully here and I am very excited about all the community and personal gardens that I have been hearing about and seeing. Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a block captain leader and she told me that there were a lot of people in the communities where she works who want to start food gardens. This is wonderful news as people are really eager to get their hands dirty and make their communities greener. But it also speaks of something more. What does this seemingly renaissance of gardening mean for Philly?

      Well, we know that folks have been gardening here in the city for generations but practice of food gardening seemed to have slowed down some in the late 80’s and 90’s. We have recognized for some time that this practice has come back in vogue and more recently has picked up momentum among personal gardeners as well. I met quite a few folks in the last weeks who have told me about their gardens, one woman who ushered me around to her house to “show off” her very beautiful flower and vegetable garden. She has been gardening for close to twenty years, she said, though just in the last few years have started to grow food.

      Gardens give us so much more than just food or flowers, it is a place of healing, of peace, of ancestral thoughts and strangely… power. I hesitate to use this word because at times it comes with a negative connotation as something that once attained inevitably leads to destruction, though there are various ways to view power and many ways it affects us. My thoughts are that with all the questions out there about our food system and with urban gardening becoming more prominent in the media, folks are remembering their roots and reconnecting with the land, as well as their food source, and in doing so are gaining a sense of power. The power that comes with knowing you can provide a necessary part of your family’s life, one that is vitally important, and attainable.

      This reconnection to the land that gardening provides is important to us as urban dwellers as it is pretty easy to get caught up in the hectic everyday of city life and forget about the beautiful things and “that which nourishes us”, as I like to say. This reconnection serves as not only a food source but also has the potential to be source of community, empowerment, peace, balance, and healing. Of course there are many practices people employ to add peace, balance and harmony in their lives and gardening just happens to be one of them that I find transformative.

      As I sat weeding in the garden at Fairhill Burial Grounds in N. Philly last week with Bri Patterson she talked about how that garden was not just a place of employment but her “go to” place of solace. I believe her words were, “this is my favorite place in the whole city.” And I think that many of us can agree with this sentiment. I logged on to our website “” the other day to see some folks had added pictures to the map of their garden site. The before and after pictures of the garden were striking because you could almost feel the transformative nature of what happened on that vacant lot.

      When I drive by a new community garden with children playing outside and helping out, or a well maintained older garden with a large-brimmed hat wearing matron inspecting the plots, even a small raised bed with a few rows of old standards like collards, green beans and marigolds, I get all excited and jittery inside thinking about what urban gardening means for Philly. What does it mean to you?

      Philadelphia Community Gardening Story

      Rockland St. Community Garden-after
      Philadelphia Community Gardening Story
      Rockland St. Community Garden

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