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 separate from them.
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, the garden’s founder, 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.
Renzy Shade works with Gaia’s Garden, a permaculture garden in Pittsburgh. 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. Other audience members discussed the social aspect of gardening and preserving food, which bonds families together and creates group ties.