We started the day down the street from her house with a little gathering at the neighborhood park, sharing food that Andrea had prepared and acquired through a grant from the City. While a few neighbors were there, Andrea later confessed (see video here!) that she was not sure at that point how the day was going to turn out...she had knocked on her neighbor's doors to explain what she was organizing, and was hoping of course for an enthusiastic turnout for her day of neighborly gardening together.
Back at her garden, after a short introduction by our co-director Chad Shavor, Andrea gave her introduction as well. As she spoke, a few more neighbors started trickling in... We soon got to work, with the goal of the day being that each family would have buckets of veggies planted that they could take home with them as their own little garden, perhaps inspiring future gardens in their home's back yard. Tomato, radish, greens, and other starts including culinary herbs, were provided, as well as the soil, manure, and buckets.
As Chad began teaching everyone how to combine the soil ingredients and plant the starts...an amazing thing happened. Suddenly, I looked around, and the garden was packed FULL of people! Hubbub and activity everywhere, as neighbors of all ages worked together busily; planting, filling buckets, and all in all getting their hands good and dirty and having great, clean FUN! :-) In no time at all, the buckets were lined up against the fence ready to go to their new homes, filled with all the starts that everyone had learned to plant together. Everyone seemed excited, and eager to continue the learning and see where it would lead.
As I spoke to a few of the neighbors, the theme that began to arise was how much efforts like this were needed in their community and how excited they were to be a part of it; for in the not-so-distant past their Alta Vista neighborhood was run by gangs and violence. Still today it remains a culturally rich but low-income community. And after spending the day there, while people say that music is the "universal language", I would argue that food is as well, bringing people harmoniously together in conviviality and shared purpose.
Huge Kudos to Andrea for reaching out to her neighbors, to all the neighbors who came and those yet to come, and as always, to Chad, for making this all possible!
(More video of the day to come!) :-)