Earlier this year in the dead of winter a place in Avondale was once again devastated by a “break-in" and theft of things. Gabriel's Place on Reading Road in Avondale lost some lap tops and some momentum. There was a short term shutdown while resources were replaced and a reaffirmed commitment was reached. Gabriel's Place is a part of the Episcopal Church and committed to being in a community that deserves better than it has and is staying on to offer a safe haven and warm meals and place to learn and grow in community.
Avondale it self is in a food desert, which means there is no easy way for a resident to get to a grocery store, one with a produce department or frozen veggies in a freezer case. The closest thing to “food” in Avondale is in Frito bags and only available where one is more likely looking to by a pack of gum, a lottery ticket or a pack of cigarettes.
Three weeks after that break-in the resolve to continue their vocation to the community through advocation of “community and health and learning” I was called in to share what I know about food growth. This is the very core of what I enjoy and I deeply care about—the teaching of others how to know and grow a little bit of their own food. Our round table discussion with board members, employees and volunteers was about seasons timing and if it was getting too late to start the spring and summer food seeds. There is currently a search for a full time “grower” to tend to the campus of gardens and see this through. In the mean time Gabriel's is pinch hitting with folks like myself to start the hopeful spring season. Consensus was met that seeding for the spring should commence asap and that cold frame beds would empower clarity, manageability and season safe extension to get things started
One Small Garden was asked to bring in raised beds to enhance the gardens and give them a new birth in organization and access. The existing gardens had lots of love poured into them over time and Mother Nature was happy to take all that has been given. The in ground beds, left from last year had lots of potential and needed to become a place where others could easily learn from them. This advocation of learning this skill is as much about self-growth for Gabriel's as it is for the residents of the neighborhood.
When I arrived in the morning to greet the delivery of new Veggie soils by Bzak, I was greeted by two women who work at Gabriel's. Tori Craig is the voice of Gabriel’s Place in media and community communications. Kristen St Clair, is the chef and teacher who has full reigns on the professional kitchen housed there. Kristen is training others there how to create and make foods for hundreds of folks with soups and salads and entrees every week. These two women would be the first for me to teach and they in turn would do the same that day. A bevy of nursing students would soon arrive to share their own skills of “healing” and desire to be a part of a nurturing and nourishing efforts at Gabriel’s.
We together unloaded the beds and began our first assembly. Once shown the Nurses arrived, and we all began to set all hands to work. Truly “teams” formed naturally, and 20 women and one man put together 6 raised beds, moved them into the garden area, set them level and easily accessible--all in less the three hours. The previous beds were mounded to save those soils. The new beds were placed over and around the mounds. Additional soils were blended into the beds now holding over a cubic yard of soil ea. Several times while working we all delighted that the sun had warmed us and the hope of spring was in the air. True joy was shared that we were making new things grow at Gabriel’sPlace. We all had bragging rights that day to go home and say “we put in 6 gardens today”
When all was in place we began the seeding of one of the beds. We all gathered and sat around the garden’s edge- one of the huge benefits of using OSG raised beds is the height and ease to sit on the edge. We seeded the 1st of six beds--launching it to the task of growing for others. We seeded and marked lettuces and spinach and chard and beets, carrots and radishes and snap peas. All were tucked in under a Cold Frame Curtain for the spring shelter from frost and wind.
I was so taken by the volunteers' happiness in what had happened that day, we all came to help and we all did. We all seeded and grew in our time together. The Nurses went home that day with an impression of what all is needed to start their own gardens at home and they also left their support to the growth of others by reviving the gardens in Avondale. Tori and Kristen will be left with the watering cans and the time ahead to continue to share and show growth. One Small Garden got to create a safe and easy to access learning and growing system for others for years to come.
I have always held a few Professions in extreme high regard: The Teachers, The Spiritual Guides or leaders, The Healers and The Growers. It seems we all came together that day.