Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An Update From Madison Square Unity Garden

This is an update from Madison Square Unity Garden
Unity Garden Leaders Rock !!
Sarah and Mitch -- I've missed you lately! But I should be in the garden much of Tuesday if you'd like to stop by. Have a few vacation days.

Things are going pretty well but it's hard to keep food available, people come daily and especially right now, at the end of the month.
Today, two women came and got the last of the collards that were big enough, and green tomatoes. Yesterday I left a big pile of green beans on the picnic table and they were gone before the day was out, the ladies and I found a few more handfuls today so they could take some ...
.. So I've planted more, and for cold weather. Here's what the garden looks like and what's in it now:
    Several of the neighbors tell me they enjoyed some corn -- I had an ear once or twice, though it was usually gone -- but that plot is replanted as peas now. They're just starting to break the soil. I also put a few rows of kale there but the seed was old, I'm waiting to see if it takes. (Cleared the old stalks and some other piled up stuff out this weekend, so most things look real clean ... But there's always a weed pile under the tree).
   Next plot: The green beans are still going pretty good so they stayed where they are, and they've done so well I'm doing more beans next year. Some insect damage to leaves, and wet/heat root spots, but they've always fought back of their own accord and beans have loved their space.
  Third: Okra's getting used as fast as it grows, and I planted six new yellow squash hills awhile back, they're doing really well, along with a few rows of carrots in that plot. Just planted alternating new rows of spinach over there too. It's a place that works for a bunch of things so far.
 Fourth: Picked all the lima beans on Sunday, still waiting on potatoes because they were way too small. Seriously thinking about moving some to tubs. That plot has a little spinach coming along in it too. I tucked some in the shade over there several weeks back, so they're slow but ...
Fifth: Cucumbers have suffered a little but continue to bear, I have one in the fridge and folks took the rest of them, everything on the vine is little right now but still flowering and growing. Several weeks ago I planted several new cucumber plants to fill in before it was too late to put them in, and they're growing OK. That's a very shady spot which has been both a curse and a blessing to the cukes at different times, I guess.
Sixth: This plot went in late, after Martin's shut down the greenhouse. Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, all behind the others but they're bearing. Planted new mustard greens in between the rows over there (mustard greens did great, but were tired and seedy -- pulled out the old ones). Man walking by took a whole bag of mustards the other day, after I'd pulled up the old plants and taken them home and cleaned them for folks to use.
Seventh: Zucchini did really well, and I know there were some to take late last week -- they were gone over the weekend though.
The plants were hurt some during that really hot humid spell, and -- along with the cukes, pumpkins and others in that family -- got a bad case of powdery mildew. So I sprayed with a milk/baking soda treatment, cut the zucchini back and have watched their new growth come in pretty healthy. Still a little worried about them, there's a few plants with root damage, but there's plenty of flowers and new little zucchini growing fast.
    The acorn squash, sigh, people keep taking them when they're just WAY too small. I give up, I will never see an acorn squash really ready.
   But I gave up on being frustrated about that. If I'm there -- and at some point every day, I am -- then I tell people to wait, or this is ready, or whatever to help them learn. If I'm not, I figure if they need something that badly even though it's so small, I can't imagine how scary that hunger is.
   I often send people to you because it's such a large garden, or to others nearby like Zion. But Nettie, who stopped by today, tells me she went to McKinley and it was pretty cleaned out. She used to do the Mt. Carmel one at church, but she's not sure they have one again this year ...
Anyway, except for a few truly damaged plants, the zucchini has healed better than I thought it would, and cooler dry days have helped a lot.
Eighth: The collards are just hardy as they always are, and -- like everything else -- have always been harvested, even when a few times early on before the garden caught on, I did it myself and took them to one of the older neighbor ladies. She has been thrilled to have them each time. I also planted cabbage and cauliflower for the fall in that plot, since the new mustard greens went elsewhere and that space made more sense.
Ninth: Green peppers never finish growing before someone takes them. I've only ever had one myself all summer, and that was because it was damaged. (Usually if I take stuff it's because it's got a scar, or funny shape or soft spot or something.) They are doing OK too, I just weeded that plot and saw a few small peppers on the plant ... Guess no one else saw them so far ... I've also planted some onions in that space again.
Ten: Tomatoes, which have been a battle. Next year I want to use cages even though I don't like how they look, simply so it won't be such a fight to keep them up and keep them healthy ... But tomatoes are always flying out of the garden, usually green, people ask for that all the time. That was another thing I just got used to, at first I felt, like, can't they ripen? But if people love them green and eat them green, then that works for them.
That border needs weeding, and so do the streetside melons, but everything else is pretty cleaned up. And, obviously, pretty cleaned out too.
There's still a row of cornstalks near the northwest corner, but that's because they have black beans growing up them and some squash plants and pumpkins in the bed below them, so I've left them alone ... I need to spray those squash and the melon for mildew and hope to on Tuesday. There's also a small lettuce patch people are using near the strawberry/raspberry patch, and those plants are happy and have done pretty well.
And a patch in the back where there's small honeydew melon still growing because I don't think anyone knows they're there, under the tree ...
    Things haven't been perfect. One Sunday afternoon there was a SWAT standoff down the block on Madison Street! And I've had trouble with a volunteer or two who feel that it's not fair to share with other people who just take stuff without making any time or work contribution, who aren't effective about making others feel as welcome as they are. Sometimes I talk to new people -- this happened one night when neighbors John and Lisa came down for the first time, and took some corn -- and that may mean I'm not paying as much attention to a neighbor who comes routinely. One guy I swear was doing drug deals on his cell phone while hanging around, so I just stopped talking much and he drifted off after a few weeks.
When that stuff happens I explain the Unity philosophy -- but as always, I find that good people make the difference. When the lawn mower got stolen, Dave let me borrow his. Which was a good thing, because I hate the garden lawn not being cut and the appearance ever being unkept.
    Billy doesn't work in the garden, but stopped and gave me a drink one day because I looked hot ... I think it's important to talk about the plants and everything, but the people are always more important to me. I walk home in tears sometimes because the need is so overwhelming. The other morning it was a Latino guy who works for the Streets Department, I forget his name, he said used to be a migrant worker based in Brownsville Texas ... He mostly just wanted to talk but took some of the beans and I forget what all with him. Last week, as some nasty storms rolled in, it was two different ladies I'd never seen -- said they've come several times -- filling bags with food until the first raindrops fell ... So I asked them what they wanted, since I usually do ask people, I'm planting this or that, what do you want more of? They said cabbage, so. I planted it. But I think right now if you checked?
There's always green tomatoes, and whatever beans we missed ... There's some lettuce, and tiny cukes and melons that aren't ready yet ... There's a handful of collards ... But everything gets harvested and? Even the kids stop and get stuff when they get off the school bus now.
I feel blessed to be a part of this, and since I'm home Tuesday, if you guys want to stop by I should be around the garden or home. And remind me to get you recipes -- I just had a great green tomato gumbo for dinner tonight, and made an underripe melon stir-fry the other day ...

I've missed you!


Reducing Obesity Coalition Events

Reducing Obesity Coalition hosting Cooking from the Unity Garden and a Family Fun Fest!  3 Cooking from the Garden events at 3 different Unity Gardens . All Free to the Public

September 2nd 5 to 7pm
Cooking From the garden
 at Zion Church Unity Garden

September 4th 4pm to 7pm
Cooking from the garden
at the Garden of Saint Therese

Friday, September 09, 2011, 05:00pm - 07:00pm
ROC UR Body Family Fun Fest
Howard Park

Be a ROC star by helping The Reducing Obesity Coalition of St. Joseph County in the fight against childhood obesity! Join us for a family night of games, cooking demonstrations and play games with University of Notre Dame athletes!
The first 100 people to register at www.reducingobesity.org will receive a FREE activity kit for the family!

September 24th 11am to 1pm
at LaSalle Square Unity Garden
Cooking  From the Garden
3701 Prast Blvd
For more Info call or e-mail

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Unity Story

Here is a story from our youngest garden leaders. She took on her project from start to finish. She attended all the Unity Gardens classes this winter . She also presented the plan to the church board , and members. Its an incredible story of sharing . Many folks have came to me with stories of what the have harvested from Elizabeth's garden . Let's hope a whole generation of people can learn gardening skills from this fine example.
Hi Sara!

The garden has been growing very well and I have officially earned my Girl Scout Gold Award
I was interested in earning my Girl Scout Gold Award and my Girl Scout troop had been working with a journey book about food and growing gardens. At that time the Girl Scouts also became involved in helping the Unity Gardens by planting marigolds and sunflowers to ward off the animals that eat the gardens. My Girl Scout troop became more interested in the Unity Gardens and I helped with a service project at Camp Millhouse in which we planted a Unity Garden for the campers there. Then the church which our Girl Scout troop meets at was interested in having a garden there too. Since I like to garden and the church wanted a garden, it seemed like a great Gold Award project. So I put together a Unity Garden for the church in which we are growing tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, carrots, radishes, and onions for the church members to help care for and share together.
Elizabeth Arndt

Friday, August 19, 2011

Growing Community at Unity Gardens

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The visitors at LaSalle Square Unity Garden often symbolize our mission in many ways.  Today was a perfect example.  As usual, we have a constant stream of harvesters and veggie donors visiting all day.  Come evening the real "rush hour" begins as this garden alone often hosts between 50 and 100 neighbors every night! 

In order to keep up with the Unity demands I have begun to have my business and community meetings at the garden.  Today I met with landscape architects from Whiteman Petrie to share our plans and systems, then the Saint Joseph County Health Department to discuss how we connect people to the vegetables here and to plan an on site Reducing Obesity Coalition event.  During the meetings we saw over a dozen harvesters, and 3 neighbors dropping off extra harvest from their yards. 

Those gathered shared recipes, talked about their histories with gardening and even had some tasting tours!  The photo captures Robin Melewski sharing her basil with Wendy, a new connection grown.  After, as I was leaving, I bid farewell to Wendy, still harvesting, Kim, a previous garden leader, and new neighbors all gathered to enjoy healthy fresh food from the gardens and couldn't help but reflect on what had really grown here today!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Facebook Post

This is a facebook post by a neighbor / Volunteer at the LaSalle Square Unity Garden

Yesterday, around 1:30 I was at the garden and there was a bunch of people dropping stuff off from their own gardens. I picked all my cabbage that was still good and filled two big containers that I placed on the share shelf. There were three 2ft long or longer cucumbers, lots of cherry tomoates, green bell peppers, and much more. When my mom and I stopped back by around 5:30 to drop stuff off, the shelf was almost empty!

A lot of the people that talked to us were saying that they bring stuff 1-2 times a week because they don't want it to go to waste. So, now we know there IS a lot of food being dropped off beside whats being picked. I just came back from there again about 3:30 and there was 1 bucket of cabbage leaves, 1 cucumber, some carrots, some green beans, and some baby tomatoes left from what was dropped off yesterday. :)

This is what the gardens do ! Bring people together , Sharing , Growing , and being a community .
" We are growing more than vegetables here "

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Unity Story through A Different Perspecitve

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The following was sent to me from new Unity Gardens board member, Jill LaFountain.  I asked her to describe "why Unity".  Her response requires no further introduction!

I am thankful to be joining the Unity Gardens Board of Directors.

I first became acquainted with the Unity Gardens while volunteering one afternoon at the Potawatomi Conservatories. It was then I met Mitch and Sara. Both had such a passion for gardening. I was fascinated by their energy and excitement for gardening. As I talked more with them I realized their idea of gardening was not the same as mine. I thought they were passionate about dirt, seeds, plants and harvesting in the literal sense. But after talking with them I soon realized the Unity Gardens was about more than the food produced by the Unity Gardens. It is about something much bigger, it is about community, pride, planting seeds of hope,and harvesting good things from each individual. We find value in ourselves, our neighborhood and our community. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I knew this is something that is a vital need in our community. One seed has all the potential in the world to grow and feed a community.

For centuries gatherings around food is a worldwide ritual. From the smallest of homes to the largest castles, people gather together to share a meal. Food brings people together. The Unity Garden brings fellowship to our community on a daily basis while filling the most basic needs every human has to live. Food for our bellies and food for our souls. Indeed, Unity Gardens slogan, "Seed more, feed more" is a powerful statement.

My name is Jill La Fountain. I am a wife, mom and community servant. I am humbled as I look forward to serving with my friends at the Unity Gardens.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Voting Starts August 12th 5:01 PM

Please vote for us , Click the Force Logo on the Right >>>>>>

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Unity Garden at Zion Story

I am often asked why I am so committed to the Unity Gardens, what keeps it fresh and exciting.  During the heat of the summer, when things are tugging at me in all directions, growing food, presenting the story, answering e-mails, pursuing funding, I even ask myself that question!  Then, when I get too hot, too tired, or a bit discouraged, one of the garden leaders, volunteers, or harvesters will share a story that helps renew my commitment, reminding me that "we can't afford not to" share and teach people how to care for their health through fresh produce. 

 All Unity Gardens have struggles, especially first year Unity Gardens.  The Unity Garden at Zion had transitions in garden leaders last year and had less community involvement than desired.  The produce was mostly donated to a nearby food pantry.  People within the congregation and neighborhood liked the idea of Unity Gardens, but did not fully understand the connection with the greater community. The garden was one of the last planted.

This year was different!  The congregation asked for a Unity Presentation early in the year.  With the enthusiasm of the entire congregation, and strong leadership of an avid gardener, the garden has been a symbol of all that Unity Gardens represents!  I am proud to share the following e-mail that Helen Giglio, the garden leader at the Unity Garden at Zion, just forwarded me the following e-mail.  Thanks to all my Unity Garden heroes, like Helen for growing more than vegetables here!   Sara
Unity Garden at Zion

Dear Sara and Mitch, Sorry I was not out at the big garden this AM...I did something dumb to my knee Monday so I am trying not to overdo.  I wanted to share something wonderful.  I was out at the Zion garden Monday and a mom with a baby in a stroller and an older daughter walked by, I invited them to come in and pick some tomatoes and gave them a bag...they picked a bunch of stuff as another lady strolled over, I gave her a bag and she picked tomatoes, peppers and squash, and then a car drove up, a couple came out with bag in hand and got some green tomatoes, peppers and collards. So, neighbors have been watching the garden and are ready to pick fresh food.  I have some bags and a plastic sharing shelf ready to take over today!  Helen

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Week at LaSalle Square

This week I spent everyday , planting , watering , and weeding . Hoping that I can provide some vegetables for everyone who stops by the LaSalle Square Unity Garden  . The plants keep giving , but its harder , and harder to find things to harvest .  The flow of people into the garden is so heavy even I am surprised . A man and his wife stop in and say we are homeless , and hungry can you help. A gal who has had cancer just wanting healthy food . Large families , and retired folks all stopping by . We all have one thing in common ...we all eat .
      So this week just like last year my motto is " Seed more feed more " . Sat was sort of the apex of the week . We were busy , and folks just kept coming . We are hoping some home gardeners will bring extra veggies from their home gardens , and drop them off at our shaded shelter . Lots of folks looking for healthy food .

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ravina Park Grand Finale!

South Bend Fire Dept waters the Unity Garden & the kids!

Veggies for salads!  No left overs today!
Our URC LAMP kids program at Ravina Park has ended for this year!  This program was made possible with collaborative partners: Neighborhood Resource Center , United Religious Community, IVY Tech, South Bend Parks Dept, and area neighbors!  On Wednesdays and Saturdays neighbors and friends gathered to eat and play together.  On Saturday garden programs were held, raising awareness and appreciation for veggies, harvesting, and planting. At first many were tentative, not wanting to eat things right from the ground. By today, even the youngest participants were enjoying their own salads and waters!

But as usual, we were not only celebrating healthy eating, we were growing something more!  We enjoyed meeting neighbors who wanted to hear about how to get more involved with Unity.  It was great to introduce them to the firemen, other garden leaders and many of their own neighbors!  I was amazed to note that we had 6 different Unity Garden leaders at this celebration, supporting one another in their "growing" efforts!  All were sharing their stories; Laureen about the sudden influx of harvesters throughout her Madison Square Unity Garden, Rey discussing the successes Monroe Park has enjoyed, now in the 3rd season, and Tina, who helps keep the harvesters at LaSalle Square from going hungry when we have no more to pick at her nearby Garden of St Therese.  Heather shared ground hog tips with Ricky, who has a recent unwelcome harvester lately!  As I hear these and others share their visions of Unity, it is evident our community has truly come together in amazing ways to grow health!  Thank you all for supporting Unity Gardens and each other!