Ready for an update on the Community Garden that continues to grow and thrive?

It has been 10 days since i shared the story about The Little Garden That Could.

That feels way too recent to be writing any more about it. And yet so much has happened.

If you are following me on Instagram, you will know that i have already made five different posts about the garden, which is a lot in such a short space of time. But it has been changing and growing and evolving so much and so quickly that each one of those posts have been necessary. Which is why i felt it would be good to document some of the changes here as well.

In Times like These

Let’s be honest, we are living in difficult and painful times. Confusing and overwhelming times. Where recently my blog posts have been stories about those who have survived Covid-19 as well as a few stories of those who have not. We need some stories of life and joy and growth and community engagement to lift us and give us hope and show us what is possible in these times. Because the Bernie memes will only take us so far.

And so, from the unlikely space of a really ugly unused eyesore piece of land that was just sitting there, occasionally providing parking for random cars [not like there is much nearby to park for] came the start of a free food source for those in the area and those passing through.

Choose Life

These are the stories we need to be sharing and making go viral. Because they give other people both the inspiration and the permission to do the same. Ours is not the first community garden in the Diep River/Plumstead area. i think it was the sixth or eighth or something that the crew from Creating Eden had gotten involved with. And there have been a number since  ours, one is a nearby park that is looking really amazing.

People have refused to give in to the sickness and incarceration and death that is the nature of the Pandemic we are facing, and have chosen life, for themselves and their communities.

The garden was started on the 13th of December and these pics above show some of the food that is already being produced [As i am writing Val returns from watering the garden with a handful of spinach, swiss chard and bok choy]. We have just seen the start of two butternuts which is quite exciting and a melon of some type and the kale is going strong. It’s a regular supermarket section out there.

And then there were more.

It started with a few plants dropped at the garden with little ribbons around them and a tiny Christmas present ornament. Then there was a small rock with the word ‘Thank you’ that had been painted on it in pretty colours. And now Morne from across the road has been erecting trellises for the plants to grow over and latch on to. Hoots from cars and bikes as they drive past and almost every time Val goes to water the garden i hear excited conversations from passersby who stop to ask questions and share stories and often inquire about how they can start such a thing where they stay.

More than just a garden, and more than just Val’s garden [although she is still putting in most of the work at the moment] it is becoming a space that is inviting community engagement and offering free food to anyone who wants it. And becoming a rally point for conversation as even when Val has been here we have heard people stopping and having a chat with Morne and his children as they have been working out there.

When we were talking about the community garden, one of the strategies was to lean into that age-old piece of Youth Leader wisdom that was handed down to me decades ago: It is easier to ask for Forgiveness than Permission. 

The fear was that if we asked the people who live around us what they thought of the idea, that there would likely be all sorts of reasons as to why we shouldn’t do it [Bringing ‘undesirables’ into the community being top of the list, i’m sure]. People tend to fear change and the unknown and are more likely to gravitate towards what might go wrong than what could possibly go right.

So we opted to create the garden and show them how it worked and then use that as an invitation to get involved. Which, for the most part, has worked. People have seen the vision take shape and been curious and excited and encouraging and inspired.

A lot of that has been captured in this story that Val posted on Facebook a while ago:

Community Garden

Get involved

2020 was a difficult and overwhelming year for so many people. So far, it hasn’t seemed like 2021 is going to be much better. We have to find stories of hope and inspiration to cling to. This tiny little garden – that just provided a decent portion of my breakfast – is one of those.

What can one little garden do? Maybe not much. But it’s the Ants and the Crickets again. What can eight or nine gardens do that are spread out across Diep River and Plumstead? Well, suddenly it starts to become a thing. Val was dreaming out loud yesterday something along the lines of: What if South Africa became the verge garden country of the world? What if Diep River became the verge garden suburb of the country? It is possible. And it is well on the way to happening.

And as a country, are we not tired of leading the statistics of things that are awful? – rape capital, murder capital of the world? Imagine how becoming the locally grown food capital of the world might poassibly affect those other stats in time?

If you’re even a little temped, my advice to you is GO FOR IT! Find an ally or allies if you can, but ‘It is easier to ask for Forgiveness than Permission!’ So just do it. Start a garden. If you’re in these parts i am sure Ghalema Easton from Creating Eden will be up to help you. They are doing something like a garden a week at the moment, which is so exciting. Chat to your local nursery and see if they won’t get behind you. Do a crowd source on social media and see if anyone won’t help out with soil and seeds and equipment and person-power on the day. But do something.

Until that moment that you are doing something, SHARE these stories. Join the Creating Eden group on Facebook and share every time they speak about their work. Get these stories into the eyes and minds of your friends and your local community and out of that you might find that similar-minded allies will naturally appear. Sharing these stories will also begin to do something internally for you. Instead of focusing on all the doom and gloom of a Pandemic-affected world, you start to speak life and hope and inspiration and growth and see if that won’t impact other areas of your life and your general attitude and mood.

Do the things

Finally, three other things i would encourage you to be doing if you are not, to help turn things around:

  • Read Local – the other day i invited the wider community to suggest South African authors worth checking out and we came up with this pretty amazing list for you to get started on. In terms of what you watch and listen to and who you follow, you can spice those up with a number of local people if you haven’t yet.
  • Buy Local – where possible, buy from people who live near you. Support the local farms [we get a lot of our veg and meat from a group called Good Food Club and there are many kinds of co-ops like that who source locally] and designers and bakers to help build the local economy.
  • Support Local – if you are not doing this already, find a non-profit organisation that you know is doing good work and commit to a monthly amount [if you don’t have a lot of money, start with R20 or R50 – i promise you every bit counts and it starts to build the mindset and practice of generosity in you]. If you are a christian who pays a monthly tithe to your church, consider giving some of that directly to a space where there is need or else giving above and beyond that amount but to a local NGO.

These are some ways in which we break the Pandemic mindset that would have us overwhelmed and struggling to breathe. And when you have started to do one or all of these things, tell people about it. Share the story with your family in your Whatsapp group [invite them to join you] and with your sports team and your neighbourhood watch. Invite others to join you as you take action and see the narrative of the entire nation start to be affected…

Let’s all commit to planting seeds of goodness around us in whatever ways, forms and shapes we can.