Our West Coconut Grove neighborhood is located smack dab in the middle of Miami. Native Grove residents often talk about how you used to be able to walk through the neighborhood simply snacking on fruit picked from the many fruit trees scattered throughout the neighborhood; coconuts, mangos, avocados, limes, papayas, Spanish limes (genips)...you name it, it all used to grow here in abundance. The fruitfulness of the land speaks to the fact that most of our neighbors find their roots in farming. Whether it be farming in the islands (Jamaica and the Bahamas) or farming in rural Georgia, most of our neighbors can trace their roots back to a farming culture. Unfortunately, the skill of farming has been largely lost in the generations who are a bit removed from the experience of immigration and migration. They have not gleaned the rich experience of farming from their ancestors who were pioneers in our neighborhood.
Five years ago, the Carter Street Block Club (CSBC), a community organizing initiative of InnerChange Miami, determined that they wanted to tap back into those farming roots; they wanted to grow vegetable gardens. This stirring of interest resulted in "victory gardens" planted on Carter Street. Interest continued to grow across the neighborhood. At the same time, an organization called Slow Food Miami approached our team, proposing a gardening starter project. Six West Coconut Grove neighbors would be given a garden (raised bed, soil, plants, and all) in their own yard as a community building tool and source for healthy food. When we surveyed neighbors to see whether we would have enough response to move forward with such a project, the response was overwhelming.
On the initial planting day in 2011, each new “gardener” crowded into my backyard for instructions; thus Resurrection Gardens was birthed. Our excitement mellowed out in the following weeks as we waited and waited. We checked on each other’s gardens and waited some more. Our waiting was not without incident. On many occasions I was called outside to help battle the platoons of tomato worms and other garden nuisances. The larger worms seemed to drink up my organic insecticide like it was Kool-Aid but diligent patrolling by friends and neighbors helped us win that war.
Before long, all six gardens began to show signs of “fruit”; tomatoes were budding, carrots were breaking through the soil, peppers were taking shape, and collard greens were stretching out their growing leaves.
These six gardens not only fed many households in our neighborhood, they also planted seeds of community and good neighboring.
In our second planting season, some gardens have changed hands as neighbors have moved in and out of the neighborhood and some gardeners have become proficient growers. The most exciting aspects of this season were (1) so much growing interest that we began planning for the installation of six new gardens and (2) neighbors truly taking ownership of Resurrection Gardens. One neighbor in particular, Monica, really stepped up to the plate. We already knew she had a passion for gardening but it turns out that Monica is also a natural community organizer. Her idea and initiation of the Resurrection Gardens Facebook has been very instrumental in helping us stay connected as a group. Monica and I worked together to solicit Slow Food Miami for funds for new garden installations as well as to prepare neighbors for the recent round of garden installations.
In InnerChange we continually try to work ourselves out of a job; persisting in the act of giving away leadership. This is a rare practice in our upwardly mobile culture, however, it is a key goal of community transformation. The point is not the gardens or any of the other initiatives our team helps neighbors begin, but the resulting opportunities for developing mutual relationships and sharing Christ. This all results in the transformation of lives, families, and whole communities. As we release Resurrection Gardens to the capable hands of local leadership, we celebrate the end of our job in this role and the milestone it represents in the transformation of our neighborhood.
By Kristy Wallace