The green movement of so-called “recession gardens” is going beyond the backyard and reaching entire communities in an effort to fight poverty and feed the hungry.
It's a great idea, turning vacant lots into vegetable gardens and many people are digging in.
In Part 3 of our series, we take a look at how community gardens are bringing people together to share the work of growing food.
Jane Miller hasn't grown vegetables since she was a little girl, "kinda getting back in there. It's like riding a bike, just starting back over. You never forget how to do it."
She's one of many volunteers gardening at the Unity Garden at LaSalle Square. It's an empty lot at Ardmore and Prast in a South Bend neighborhood.
Organizer Sara Stewart Uzelac has big plans for this patch of land, "this is a half acre, we have plans year after year if it keeps going to go up to five acres and really add a greenhouse training center, walking paths, gathering areas so people can come together."
Empty lots don't have to turn into jungles, residents can band together and grow these community gardens. Neighbors are not only growing vegetables, they're growing relationships.
"If you look around town, there's green space at so many different places. Gardens can happen everywhere, anytime someone does a backyard garden that's going to increase our food suppy and our ability to share," says Stewart Uzelac.
There are two concepts at work in our area:
Community gardens are organized within neighborhoods with cost and harvest shared among the participants.
With a unity garden, seed, tools and labor are donated, but the harvest is free for the taking. Stewart Uzelac says, "the unity gardens are the frame work of free sharing. Anyone's welcome to come here and harvest, everyone's welcome to come here and do the work."
The workers on this day are from project impact, a service organization that helps former offenders transition back into society with meaningful work.
Volunteer Anthony Mason says, "it means to help out in the lower poverty areas that got a lot of vacant lots, to help them do something positive."
Gardening experience is not required in this garden, you can learn as you grow.
"It's like coming together, instead of being out there alone by yourself, you're getting a chance to watch the garden grow, yourself grow and the community grow," says volunteer Angela Jackson.
The redevelopment commission donated the land and the water supply for the LaSalle Square project in South Bend. Businesses and private individuals donated seed and tools.
If you'd like to start a community garden or a free-sharing unity garden, click here for helpful links and information.
You can read Part 1 of our series "Recession Gardens" by clicking here.
To read Part 2 of our series, "Recession Gardens," click here.