Full Frontal Gardening

Is gardening part of a social revolution?  Well, it’s not exactly the sexual revolution of the 60’s–gardening is a much less controversial activity–but I believe it can still be audacious, wild and transformative.

This excellent op-ed in the Nation explains it well:

“At its best, tending one’s garden leads to tending one’s community and policy, and ultimately becomes a way of entering the public sphere rather than withdrawing from it.”

My friend Gina Zivcovic lives in a little pink house in Salt Lake, in a area that faces some challenges with gangs, drugs and violence.  A WCG garden down the street keeps a locked gate and regularly finds its sign tagged. One afternoon while I was there, a helicopter circled overhead in search of a man who had stabbed another on the street.

Despite these inauspicious signs, there are still a lot of great things about the neighborhood–a sense of community solidarity, ethnic diversity, and determination by many to make the city a more beautiful and livable place.  WCG’s Fairpark community garden is one part of this effort.

Gina is also at the forefront of the movement.  Her work pushes the boundary between private and public responsibility, reclaiming common ground and building bridges between strangers.  Just by gardening.

Gina’s vegetable garden stretches across her front yard and down the parking strip across from her house.  A chair and table next to the sidewalk invite people to stop and enjoy, to join in conversation.  Working in her little plot, Gina says she has met just about everyone around the block.  She invites people to pick tomatoes and peppers, and she doesn’t seem to worry about whether a few vegetables go mysteriously missing during the year.

fairparkneighborhood

Sometimes volunteers come over to help out with the garden. A couple years ago they extended the landscape around the corner, to an empty lot owned by a billboard company.  With permission from the landowner and governing bodies, Gina’s little garden is slowly infiltrating and transforming her neighborhood.

Is gardening part of a social revolution?  Heck yeah.  And more people are enlisting every day, embracing what author Fritz Haeg describes as “full frontal gardening.” Check out his book Edible Estates for more brilliant examples. (And try to ignore the awful web design. We gardeners aren’t always the most tech savvy.)

Also check out Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores, another inspiring book about transforming a neighborhood one garden at a time.

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