Monday, January 21, 2013

Celebrating Urban growing and Social Justice

Many of the Unity Gardens’ staff, leaders, volunteers, and Master Gardeners spent the weekend at the KAMII MLK Social Justice Conference in Chicago.  What a great way to reflect on our mission and count our blessings through the eyes of others!

From planning a garden for a homeless shelter to use to help their neighborhood have access to healthy food, to listening to the many classes on urban farming, the entire conference was one delight after another.  It was both educational and reinforcing.  We learned so much from others, but also saw how much we had to offer!
Academic discussions on what it meant to give and to receive, discussions on empowerment, social inequity, and dignity all helped reinforce the Unity Gardens model.  By day 2, when I was scheduled to speak about our framework and journey, I was eager to share!  Seeing Unity Gardens through the eyes of others helped me appreciate how far our community has come and what wonderful opportunities for “growth” we still have.

The Unity Gardens enthralled those who heard the story.  I could visibly see hope grow in the eyes of those listening.  In a full room, the questions started flying:  How do we make sure there is enough food, what about funding, and more.  Each group of questions led to more discussion as people there, just like in our community struggled with the concepts of free food and social inequity.  People who did not believe they could have an urban garden without fences took pause and inquired further.  Social justice leaders from across the country asked if we had grown throughout the United States, and others asked for our information so they could learn more.

One of the most common threads of inquiry, second to the overall framework was about funding.  How did Unity Gardens survive fiscally?  This line of questioning is why I am sharing.

Unity Gardens survives because this community, our community, believes we are sprouting something special.  We are growing a new way of living together and caring for one another.  While pursuing a grant, I was asked, “How does Unity Gardens hope to move beyond grant dependence?”  I replied that I could only wish to write so well as to be mostly grant supported!  Unity Gardens major source of revenue and in kind donations come from hundreds and thousands of people giving what they can. 

Every donation to Unity Gardens; $25.00, the purchase of a T-shirt, or the donation of a garden tool, weeding, even attending a fund raiser, EVERY donation, is what keeps us growing. I am so grateful for those who come and help us garden, the volunteers who help teach our classes, the interns who take on projects or even the other non-profits who share their expertise.  Every single person in our community makes the difference!  Through the eyes of Chicago I was able to see what a truly remarkable project we have grown. Our community may have more community gardens than any other in the nation.  We do this by growing each other. Please reflect on what you value and take the time to offer part of yourself to make our world better.  I would be honored if you choose to give back through Unity Gardens.

Thank you!  I hope we can count on your support!
Donations may be mailed to
                                              PO Box 10022
                                              South Bend, IN 46680
Or on-line at
Growing Together,
Sara Stewart RN MSN


  1. I think Unity is more important in urban areas simply because the people are closer to each other. Unity is important to have to create a society where everyone can be everyone's friend.

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