Posted by: zhak39 | June 1, 2009

Gibsonville Community Garden

The Gibsonville Community Garden held a very grand opening on May 30.  Christine asked me to talk a little about sustainability.  There were about 30 people there, some curious, some interested in leasing a plot and of course our central crew.  Lenny, the mayor was present, a local reporter and we had three master gardeners.  This is what I had to say.

“Good afternoon.”

The stony silence of people not listening?  Polite reserve?  Lucky I have a trick to figure that one out.

“We don’t have to agree that it’s good but can we agree that it is afternoon?”

Ahh, a response.  Lenny picked it up; he’s wearing a full grin.  Some chuckles and a few good afternoons back.

“I think this afternoon is good and is the first in a succession of lovely days we’ll be spending in the Gibsonville Community Garden.  You can see that a lot of hard work has been done to get this far.  You just heard from Christine.  I want to mention Leslie and Sam, Sandy, Steven (that’s my husband who dug that big hole for the apple tree and already snuck away); these are some of the people who did the really hard jobs.  And I know they were the hard jobs because they’re all the jobs that I weaseled out of.”

A couple laughs from the principles, a warm murmuring.  You did all that mowing this morning!  All right.  Time to focus.

“Christine asked me to talk a little about sustainability.  Sustainability is a buzzword, kind of like existential conflict or pink is the new black.  It means a lot of things depending on who you are and your personal experience.  And sometimes it can mean absolutely nothing but it sounds like you know something.  It’s one of the words people sometimes don’t question because they think they should know what it means.  To make sure we are all starting in the same place, I want to talk about what sustainability means to us, here, now.

For us, sustainable gardening starts with taking care of the soil.  We nourish the soil as the soil would be nourished naturally.  For that reason we won’t be using chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.  We are building the soil up because it is the soil that is going to nourish our plants.  I don’t know if you heard recently but just in Orange County some farmers used an herbicide in their hay fields to get rid of invasive plants, thistles, clover.  They wanted to maximize grass for their baling.  They sold the hay to horse farmers.  The horses did what horses do and a year later, their aged horse manure was sold to gardeners and guess what?  The herbicide is still there.  And it could be there for another year.  Nothing with a broad leaf can grow in it–no tomatoes or squash,  no lettuce or beans.

Now behind you is a big pile of dark dirt.  That is actually compost from a local farm, Calico Farm over on High Rock Road.  They are an organic farm, they don’t treat their fields with chemicals so none get into the cows, so naturally, none come out of the cows.  Last night I got a phone call from a man who read about our garden in the newspaper;  yes, I spoke with you earlier, I am so glad you came.  He told me he did organic farming in the 70s and asked if this is an organic garden.  It is not.  The term organic has been co-opted by our government and by corporate interests and if you want to talk about that some more you can give me a call, my phone number is in your packets.  There is a lengthy and expensive process to be certified organic and we just can’t afford to do this.  What we can do is adopt natural practices, what were called organic practices at one time but we are calling them sustainable.  And it starts with the soil.

Now I am sure you have some questions about these practices.  Please don’t ask me because I don’t know!  There are three master gardeners here today.  See that lady digging in the hole?  And there, Justin and I believe we have someone from the Cooperative Extension coming today.  They know.  And if you are shy, keep your eye on that big pile of dirt.  If you see someone stoop over like this,”

Hope there’s something I can pick up, yeah, a little dirt

“pick up a pinch of dirt, rubs it like so, sniff it you’ve found a farmer.  Make that person your best friend.  He or she has forgotten more about coaxing food out of the ground then I could learn in a lifetime.

At the Gibsonville Community Garden sustainable is not just about the Garden part, it is about community.  Part of our vision is building and sustaining our community and in order to do this we are asking each gardener to donate 1/10th of your produce to the community.  If you have any suggestions on how to distribute this please let me know, again you have my number.  This is a crucial point of our developing this garden model.

Now I am about to say something that is not going to win me any Miss Congeniality awards.”

Interesting, a wee bit of nervous laughing.  At least they’re still listening.

“Our country is the fattest undernourished country in the world.

Like I said–no sash for me but a couple people are smiling really wide.

It is not about money and it is not about providing quantities of food indiscriminately.  It is about making available good, fresh, wholesome, local food.  Further, it is about developing relationships among our neighbors to make sure our community is appropriately nourished.  We nourish the soil, the soil nourishes the plants, the plants nourish our bodies, this activityas a whole  sustains our community.

This is how we view sustainability at the Garden.  I am so happy that you are here taking part in it.  We are a work in progress and everyone’s effort and voice is genuinely appreciated.  Thank you for coming and helping to develop and grow this model.”

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