Thursday, September 27, 2012

Garden Stories

This week I was reminded about just how much Unity Gardens means to this community. We get all wrapped up in hosting classes, doing events, and holding fundraiser that every once in awhile its good to hear from our community its makes all the hard work worth it.
    Two story's from this week were very touching. The first was from a volunteer working in the evenings out at the LaSalle Square Unity Garden. She relayed the story to me, and trust me the more time you spend in the garden the more you learn. Among the many visitors enjoying the garden there was one lady worried about us taking down the garden early because she has got such good use out of it . She was either unemployed or underemployed and the garden had supplemented her meals so that she could feed her family complete healthy meals. What a confirmation of the good that can be done.
     My story for the week was somewhat similar but very different. Whether this sounds good or bad the expectation is that of course we need gardens on the urban west side of  South Bend because the unemployment rate is high and the need is high. Well I disagree people have problems everywhere, and most of us are just one step away from being homeless. So my story is from the far south side of South Bend at the South Field Lake Garden on Miami Rd just South of Kern. I was there and I noticed a thank you card in a plastic bag stuffed behind the sign. I read the note. It was from and unemployed woman who used the garden on a regular basis to help keep her head above water. She went back to school and is searching for a job. Sometimes when we fall on hard times or just are having a bad day its makes us feel part of a community just knowing that someone we don't even know is willing to plant a garden just so our day can seem a little brighter.
       Now we know that there is more to growing a community free healthy food in the garden is just a band aid. That why we teach people how to garden. What could make you feel better than to grow your own healthy food ? We teach classes on preserving your harvest. How good does it feel to taste the fruits of your labor in January ? We teach kids programs because they are our future and have lost contact with how their food is grown ! We teach healthy cooking classes because it feels good to cook a meal from your garden. We hold a 5k run and a bike tour because we know good exercise habits grow a healthy community.  We offer community plots so if you do not have the resources to grow a garden we can help. Its all one giant puzzle we must piece together to build the strong bones of our community. We love our community.
" We are growing more than vegetables "

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Always Something Going on at Unity Gardens

Some weeks when I try to plan my week I think its amazing how much Unity Gardens can pack into a week. This week is no different. My week started off with ordering a 20' x 48' Low Tunnel so we can get started on 4 season growing. Of course there is always work to be done in the garden.
     Next its time to put the final push on for the Chase bank facebook contest which ends Wed Sept 19th at Midnight . Vote now if you have not yet ( see our facebook page ) Chase Contest facebook link  . Monday morning I meet with the father of an Eagle Scout that wants to start a Unity Garden as his Eagle Scout project. What an awesome thing that is . Its just another example of how Unity Gardens continues to bring folks together. If the Scouts approve his project he will be taking a vacant city lot and transforming it into a area for neighbors to meet, and grow not only healthy food, but healthy friendships.
Everyone enjoyed tasting Joe's
fermented vegetables
    On Tuesday evening we hosted a fermenting class as a part of our cooking and preserving series.
Joe Gady a organic farmer, fermenter, and vendor at Purple Porch put on the class. It was a good turn out and a great class. If you missed it you can test Joe's product at the Purple Porch 

Next its back to work in the garden. Then this Saturday its our Run Toward Unity 5k Run/Walk

I guess you can see where I am going with this. Early on we coined the phrase " We are growing more than vegetables here " Our goal is not just to grow a garden full of free vegetables, but to grow a community. Bringing people together in a healthy way. Every strong community I have ever visited shares one thing they have lots of healthy options for its residents. So we plan to continue to help build a healthy community.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Vote For Community

A vote for Unity is a Vote for your community. Its just a fact that urban gardens enhance neighborhoods. But it can also help feed the hungry, provide job , build relationships between diverse groups, and help educate the community on how to grow and prepare healthy food. All we have to do is get in the top 196 to get a slice of the total award Chase Bank is giving out . If you are a Chase customer you can vote online at the Chase Community Giving Link
or you can vote on facebook with this Direct Facebook Link
We need more then just your vote please share this with your friends and explain the need for a healthy community


Our Little Hoop House

With the help of some Notre Dame students putting this hoop together and digging out an area for it, and then other volunteers helping to fill the beds and plant it. We hope to extend the season on many cool weather crops , and do a little testing on getting things growing earlier in the spring . On Saturday we put in our first seeds Kale, Mustards , Radish , Collards , and for fun a Basil , and Tomato plant . Hope to keep the harvest going as long as we can. This is just a small version of the large high tunnel going up in October.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Possibilities Endless

Imagine a Solar Powered Discovery Center
I always like to say we did not create the Unity Gardens to be Sustainable, but that we are sustainable out of necessity. As we grow out at the LaSalle Square Unity Garden it will become necessary provide some heat for our new greenhouse , power pumps for our aquaponics tanks,and lights for our discovery center. So how do we do this and still keep the cost of providing healthy food low. Well today we met with Vince and T J with Inovateus Solar . They are willing to guide us and support us with our needs as we grow. Things to think about off grid vs on grid , what are our requirements now and how will they grow. Some thoughts are to create an off grid system to power our first greenhouse , and maybe look into a future solar array that could maybe even have a payback to Unity Gardens. Both options make our project more sustainable. This is so exciting we can add an educational component and show the benefits of Solar Power. Imagine what the future holds.
Check out Inovateus Solar

Imagine an Storage area that provides energy
A garden that grows more than vegetables
Imagine this Carport as an outdoor farmers market
outfitted with solar panels to power our greenhouse
Charge Electric Cars ?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We Need You

We need your vote !  Unity Gardens has been anonymously nominated for an online voting contest by Chase Bank. The voting starts Sept 6th and if you are a Chase Bank Customer you can vote on the Chase Bank Website  or you can vote on Facebook

Unity Gardens will win a share of $ 5 million in grant given out by Chase Bank . This is really important to us and our community . In 2008 when the first Garden was planted in a vacant dusty lot in downtown South Bend we never knew how things would progress. It quickly became apparent that the Gardens a much more then free food. It building community, education, growing healthy food, and more. The money will help us to continue with our Kids Club, Adult Cooking , and Gardening Classes, Supporting More Unity Gardens. But most of all being in Northern Indiana we are sometimes limited by our growing season. That's why we are embarking on a mission to put up greenhouses to grow healthy food all year long. Aquaponics that will provide a healthy fish protein, and natural fertilizer for our indoor growing. This plan will help sustain the gardens, provide jobs, education, and an abundance of healthy food. We are looking at the Growing Power Model in Milwaukee which is said to produce a million pounds of food on just 3 acres of urban land. We hope you can help us achieve our goals.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

vegetarian minestrone soup

vegetarian minestrone soup        

From the Kitchen of Cara Lupa


Cups vegetable broth
Carrots, chopped
Large onions, chopped
Ribs celery, chopped
Garlic cloves, chopped
Small zucchini, cubed
Handful fresh kale, chopped
Cup dry barley
Can white kidney beans, drained.
1    Tbsp parsley
1    tsp dried oregano
1    28oz can crushed Italian tomatoes
1    tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper


1.    Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.
2.    Cover. Cook on Low 6-8 hours, or until vegetables are tender.
3.    Sprinkle individual servings with grated cheese if desired.
Enjoy a healthy meal from the garden