I live in a city with working vegetable gardens. It’s as urban centers that no longer thrive on commerce, the financial industry, or tourism should be.
The Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, built out of several vacant lots now filled with chickens and ducks, sheep and garden plots, and a large hand-built greenhouse with indoor waterfall, is one block away. Two blocks the other way is Gabi’s Garden, a quartet of lots given to the Albany Free School, tended by neighborhood volunteers, including our family.
Last weekend Abdul, the talkative “Mayor of Grand Street,” held one of his regular burgers-and-dogs food giveaways, this one serving the dual purpose of stopping a flood of gun violence in the area and drawing more people for the school’s bucket-garden giveaway. On Thursdays Radix hosts a farmers’ market that includes produce we get weekly through its CSA (great eggs!), local honey, and offerings brought in from Soul Fire Farm – “a Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system.”
Everyone wore masks most of the time, even the kids rampaging around. There was music from our community radio station. Everyone was standing or seated at six-foot intervals. Most folks had worked on one or the other farm. All had eaten from both, as well from smaller community plots around our old neighborhood. Where we live has seen numerous lots left vacant by fire and building collapses.
Eden? More like Detroit come east. Many of us find the urban energy, born of challenge but indicative of deep concern and care, enlivening. We feel that it is flattening the curve of despair that can come from a city’s decay.
And we love the fresh food!