Thursday, July 31, 2008

Weinland Park Community Garden Update

Exciting things are happening in Weinland Park as July draws to a close. The teen garden staff members have spent the past six weeks caring for our garden, along with keeping up projects at several other Columbus community gardens. They will complete their summer work experience this Saturday at our Urban Farmer's Market
(Aug. 2, on the corner of 4th and 18th in Columbus from 9am-1pm). Much of the past two weeks has been spent in preparation for the market, but the teens have also had a couple of wonderful educational experiences in Columbus and in Athens, OH.

Last week we visited the New Harvest Cafe on Cleveland Avenue, in Columbus' Linden neighborhood. New Harvest is owned and run by Kwodjo Ababio, a Columbus resident and an avid gardener. Kwodjo grows much of the food for New Harvest in a plot behind his restaurant. The garden was once a neglected, trash-filled lot owned by the city. Kwodjo took over the space and transformed it into an urban garden, eventually securing permission for its use from the city. Tomato plants grow out of raised beds created from old tires stacked two high. Collard greens grow in a large rectangular bed in the center of the garden. He also grows herbs to use in his foods. Kwodjo talked to our teens about his hopes to continue taking over abandoned lots in Columbus and create more gardens. He calls this practice "radical gardening." He spoke at length to the teens about his gardening experience and its value to his business and about making meaningful positive contributions to the community. He generously served the teens and lunch of soup and sandwiches from his restaurant. The teens also spent some time out back in his garden, helping to weed, water and stake tomatoes. The teens seemed to really enjoy meeting Kwodjo and some were quite inspired by his "radical gardening" philosophy. It was great for them to see such an excellent example of ways that gardening can be valuable both as a business endeavor and as a very visible means of transforming urban neighborhoods.

Also last week, we took a day trip to Athens, OH in order to visit Companion Plants, which grows and sells a wide variety of medicinal plants and herbs. At Companion Plants, we were given a tour and then had time to wander and explore. The teens heard about jewelweed, a plant that can help build up one's immunity to poison ivy, explored the aromatic herbs growing in Companion Plants' greenhouse and learned that weeping willow tree bark has a chemical component similar to that found in aspirin. After purchasing some plants for the Weinland Park Community Garden, we headed into town to enjoy lunch at a worker-owned cooperative restaurant in Athens. Overall, the trip was a success, a nice break from garden work for the teens and refreshing for them to have an experience together outside of Columbus.

Check back soon for pictures and an update from our experience at this Saturday's Urban Farmer's Market!

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