Reconnecting People | Once a property has been restored, Urban Homeworks works to connect neighbor to neighbor to create a livable, robust community with a strong sense of home. The result is a rich exchange between households that reweaves a sense of community through day-to-day activities.
Russ Barclay, Urban Homeworks’ Director of Mission Delivery, first approached Susan Breedlove, longtime teacher at Patrick Henry High School and pillar of the north Minneapolis community, about the idea of a community garden 4 years ago. Together, they began to formulate plans for one of our empty lots situated at the heart of Urban Homeworks’ 22nd and Bryant P.O.D.. It was new to both of them, but together they saw the promise in turning this lot into a place of pride and produce.
Four years later, the gardeners have changed, there is a new organizer taking the reins, and the plots are full to the brim. Now, primarily Hmong farmers, who value farming as a cultural way of life, have space to express and teach the next generation about those values.
Through the years, the experienced growers have shared tips with the non-gardeners and the group has morphed into their own community, even gathering with Susan to learn how to make jam from her 15+ varieties of fruit she grows. Susan recalls seeing long time participant, TouPaa Lee climbing a tree one day. He explained that the produce below was getting too much shade and he needed to cut the branches down. He then used the cut branches as support for the beans, never wasting anything. As a group, they avoid chemicals and many of them compost in the Hmong fashion, taking the pruned leaves and layering them directly onto the ground. The sharing of knowledge, responsibilities, and respect for the garden makes it successful for everyone.
The “community” part of the garden extends beyond the grower relationships. From the beginning, the outer boxes of the garden are planted as produce for anyone to take. There was special thought put into making sure those boxes include what people generally want to eat. Susan says that she loves hearing someone walk by and comment on the beauty of the garden in the center of our urban environment.
The stability and charm of the garden give community members something to feel proud of. The sharing of produce and culture grant both literal and educational nourishment. The long standing neighbors such as Susan provide a support network to those who need it. The Community Garden hits at the heart of what we at Urban Homeworks strive to create in each of our P.O.D.s .
We will be sharing more on what P.O.D. means at this year’s Perpetuate the Hope Luncheon. Come for a free lunch and find out what living in a P.O.D. does for the emotional, spiritual, and financial stability of Urban Homeworks families .