Saturday, July 11, 2009

DITL of Justice Gardens

we are almost two months into the first season of the Justice Gardens having a presence at the farmers market. i can't believe it's been over a year since my friend jared and i had a seed and are now seeing the tiny (though significant!) first fruits. there has been so much going on that i don't think i've even taken time to put fingers to keys and record some of it. would it even really be possible? practical? im afraid if i don't record even the mundane i will regret it. i feel we are just at the beginning of something that will be with us our entire lives, will mark so much of our future, i can't pass up my itch to write it all down and dissect it, perfect it.

first, the more mundane - i want to explain what exactly goes on. the clintonville farmers market starts at 9 on saturdays so that means we've got to be up and out the door by no later than 8:30. all of the "stuff" (the tent, cash register, zip ties, screen printed bags (which we distribute for a donation), banner, table, and tub of misc items like scissors, duct tape - oh yes i love this stuff -, a pen, and so on is all housed in a volunteers garage. so every other week it is my week to "be in charge" and i hit the door with augustine at 8:30, pick up the schwag and head over to the market, which is just a mile away. i will interject here that augustine is very enthusiastic about coming every week, always. i try to urge volunteers to show up between 8:30-8:45. sometimes they are there when i arrive (like today!) and sometimes not. we commence unloading the car and setting up the tent. if there are any new volunteers i kind of go over our "elevator speech" which jared explained as what you would say to someone if you only had 20 seconds in an elevator to tell them about what Justice Gardens is.

"Justice Gardens is working to ensure that the sustainable agriculture movement reaches under-served communities, lower income families, and at-risk youth.

Our vision is to expand the boundaries of who gets the good stuff. Using the USDA Victory Garden campaign as a model (which produced over 20 million gardens in 1943), we’re cultivating the idea that urban agriculture and "local food" is not just about getting better food for yourself...but about doing justice on behalf of others."

and then pretty much the volunteers and i stand at or around the booth and hand out business cards, talk about sustainable agriculture, poverty as a social issue, the justice involved with food, and so on. maybe i'm just a low-key kind of lady but i get really amped up when people respond to our message. someone walks up and is interested, we could and have talked to people for upwards of 30 minutes. since we are a non-profit we do not sell things but rather for a donation of $10 or a donation of $10 worth of produce (naturally our preference) we give them a really sweet bag - screen printed by the amazing folks at skreened. i will also interject here that you can buy Justice Gardens tshirts on their site too. i really like skreened/the peeps who work there, you should spend all of your expendable income there, just sayin. our main objectives are to communicate the need for fresh food for those in poverty, the importance of sustainable agriculture, and of course stress that we are seeking to be a place of fresh food drop off which we will in turn distribute to local food banks, private persons in need, shelters, etc.

most people are like YES!! and we've gotten an amazing response. a response that i am confident signals that next year we will have more volunteers and perhaps another booth at another market. *fingers crossed* around 30 minutes before the market is set to close we send a volunteer around with blank canvas bags. this person goes to each of the farmers and tells them who they are (if they don't already know) and if they have anything to donate to put it in the bag and we will come around and collect it at closing time. it's win-win. they dont have to go home with food they can't sell and we are able to get it into the hands of people who are otherwise unable to have access to such fresh, healthy foods. this week we had maybe 150-200 lbs of food? it's so hard to estimate! i do know that we were able to take some to three different places - the 5th ave faith mission for men, st, james the less food pantry, and the clintonville resource center.

actually my friend beth and i were in charge of taking things over to st. james today and meet up with a guy named frank there that our group has been in contact with. i think we had maybe 60 lbs of food to donate there? it's hard to estimate. anyways, this was my first time over there. he gave us a tour of the entire place, which until about a year ago was a convent. it's set up as a communal living arrangement for up to 20 people/families though only 3 live there so far since it's conversion. they have a "needs pantry" that was set up like a mini grocery store, it was so humbling to see it all. i was really thrilled when i saw a little sign in the window that said "catholic worker movement." love me some dorothy day! beth, frank, and i chatted for a while about social justice and gah, it just felt so wonderful to meet other people who are passionate about similar things. frank said their parish is interested in targeting the latino population of their area, which they feel is significantly underserved. i didn't realize it until he said something but many pantries and needs services make you show proof of citizenship/ID to receive aid. i'm sorry but that is no Jesus of mine, folks (& frank agreed). so because many in the community neither speak english nor are here legally, they are not receiving any kind of assistance except through places like st. james and even then the folks are naturally very suspicious for fear they might somehow be reported i imagine.

lastly, if anyone reading this has a garden or participates in a community garden where any portion of the proceeds go to help those in need i strongly urge you to go to our website and register your garden! we'd love to eventually put a map up so you can see gardens near you who are all involved with the same idea of food-justice.

so in a nutshell that is typically what the day looks like with Justice Gardens

1 comment:

Queen Bee said...

you all are doing such good work, Jenny.

i agree with Frank whole-heartedly about the Latino population being the most underserved. we have moms who are *terrified* to come into our WIC clinic for breastfeeding help, so much so that myself and others have done home visits (not something we typically do) to get them the help they need and deserve.