This past Thursday, on May 30th, Indiana residents came to the Indiana Theater to see our screening of Urban Roots, a documentary on permaculture and community gardens in Detroit. Many of Detroit’s urban poor live in “food deserts” where processed, pre-prepared food is more accessible than fresh ingredients to make their own healthier food. Additionally, like many other poor areas in major cities, crime rates are high, and employment is low, leading to communities with residents who feel disempowered and not in control of their own lives. The solution for many Detroit residents has been urban gardening, which not only allows these people to have access to fresh produce, but it also gives them something to work towards that actually shows results compared to a repetitive, low-wage job. These gardens help solve environmental problems in addition to social ones by providing a sustainable alternative to major agribusinesses. It’s very possible that these community gardens offer a glimpse into the future of urban living, where nature is integrated into cities rather than being separate from them.
However, Detroit is not the only town that can benefit from community gardening—Indiana benefits from local farms and gardens as well. Before the film, we featured some local farms and gardens in the lobby who tabled to spread awareness about their businesses, including Rosary Acres, the Indiana Community Garden, Gaia’s Garden, and Vera Bonnett. Additionally, after the movie screening, the audience participated in a discussion panel regarding the impact of community gardening on Indiana. The members of the panel included Chloe Drew, Kay Snyder, Nicole Dann-Payne, Marie Olson, and Sandi Petkus, who are all part of the Indiana Community Garden, and Renzy Shade, a guest from Pittsburgh who participates in permaculture in her city.
The members first discussed the Indiana Community Garden and its origin. Marie Olson, who had the original idea for the garden, learned of the benefits of a community garden for a neighborhood and decided to create one of her own. Thanks to the Mack Foundation, she and a few others were able to obtain funding and a location for the garden. Now, one year later, the garden is quite extensive and has features such as a pavilion and compost bins. It is also quite busy—according to Kay Snyder, the garden will have a table at the Indiana Farmer’s Market on June 15th, and Nicole Dann-Payne holds food demos that educate the community on the nutrition that they can get from the produce raised in the garden.
Renzy Shade works with Gaia’s Garden, a permaculture garden in Pittsburgh. Permaculture According to Shade, permaculture is “growing in a way that goes along with the land.” Instead of going against the existing ecosystem, permaculturists work along with it. While watching the movie, Shade found that the decaying areas and empty lots in Detroit mirror those in Pittsburgh. According to her, many people are saying that Pittsburgh is going through a renaissance, but they are ignoring that fact that there are still communities that are living in poverty. Permaculture may be one of the solutions to the social problems occurring in Pittsburgh today.
The audience had their own stories to tell, as well. Cybil Moore, an Indiana resident, spoke of her involvement with the Chevy Chase Center and its community garden as well as her memories of when gardening was ingrained into the culture of the area. Other audience members discussed the social aspect of gardening and preserving food, which bonds families together and creates group ties. Even though Indiana does not have as much of a problem with food deserts and poverty as Detroit does, it can benefit from the strong social ties that come with being involved with local farming and gardening.
Special thanks to the Indiana Community Garden, Treemedia, Rosary Acres, Gaia’s Garden, and Vera Bonnett.
For more information on the Indiana Community Garden, you can find their website here.
If you want to learn more about Gaia’s Garden, the garden that Renzy Shade works with in Pittsburgh, you can find more information here.
(Article written by Melissa King and edited by Colleen Donovan)