Thursday, June 6, 2013

It is not from ourselves that we will learn to be better than we are.

After the close of last year's growing season, NeighborSpace invited Ginkgo to an awards ceremony at the Garfield Conservatory for other groups who act as stewards for NeighborSpace properties. Those of us who attended were surprised to learn that Ginkgo was one of the larger gardens in the group.

When struggling with the flea beetles and blossom end rot of summer, it is easy to forget that there are other gardens all over Chicago, tucked away on city lots and along streets, tended by members of a community that "no longer look[s] upon rain as an impediment of traffic, or upon the sun as a holiday decoration," as Wendell Berry described in "Think Little." It was heartening to meet other gardeners, and encouraging to note that many gardeners grow food specifically to donate to others.

When Advocates for Urban Agriculture invited Ginkgo, again to the Garfield Conservatory, to participate in a panel discussion with a special focus on donation programs, I was concerned that we might be the largest garden again, and would be expected to provide recommendations for other gardens who were just starting. I prepared remarks.

I was pleasantly surprised (and--I will admit--necessarily humbled) to learn that, among the gardens who were represented on the panel, Ginkgo was actually in the middle of the range in size and production. The other gardens were serious enterprises, donating thousands of pounds a year to pantries and meal programs. It was a balm to the spirit to be surrounded by such fundamentally decent people.

--title: from "A Native Hill", Wendell Berry