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Community gardens

By Carlos Dabu

As you’re walking down George Street in Saint Paul there are a few things you may notice. First, a bridge that goes over Robert Street with a very strange four-way stop system. Push ahead, you might stop by the charming little Riverview Branch Library and take in their welcome flora setup by the stairs. WAIT! This is not your final destination; keep going. On your right you may see a building that strikingly resembles a Dairy Queen… sorry folks, but it is not. This is the Icy Cup. Pick up a treat, then hang a hard left onto Stryker Avenue. Make like the Flash, bolt up a few blocks and you have arrived – Stryker Garden! Got to toot my El Rio youth crew’s horn a bit – there is now a big sign on the north fence that screams “you have arrived.”

Stryker Garden, sometimes referred to as Stryker, is a community garden with more than 40 plots for rent. Let me back up a bit. A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people. Back to the action. These plots are wood-lined and surrounded by pathways covered in wood chips. Although there is a fee to rent out one of these wood-lined plots there are low-income options made of a fabric. In all, a very pleasurable sight from the road. Gardeners plant all types of vegetation such as tomatoes, mint, cucumbers, etc. Surrounding the garden you’ll find floral arrangements starting to grow and a compost area for weeds and other compostables, some of which are brought in from the surrounding community, doing its part to cut down on waste. This place isn’t only for adults; they have a play area with a sandbox, in clear view from the plots so parents can keep watch.

In my experience working there, the level of energy and excitement from community members is strong enough to make a pug smile. Children laughing and playing tag, the sounds of chatter in multiple languages debating what they should plant… it’s just… relaxing in a way. A friend today told me that gardening isn’t just a pastime or hobby, it is an art form that can be shared not only through the finished product but also through the journey from the beginning, along with the company. Very wise words for something that seems so simple.

Community gardens provide not only food for the community, but also a safe location where people can gather and do something together that’s meaningful and fun – a food-for-the-soul environment. These gardens are located throughout communities around the world, and I encourage all of you to stop by one or start one in your own community. You’ll savor the memories.