Our answer to the City of Tomorrow challenge question is to develop community and promote ecological growth. We propose a community garden pilot based on a successful porotype for a year and a half completed on our home across the street. The garden would eventually minimize trips to the grocery store for residents, connect older African-American residents with newer Hispanic-American homeowners, provide an aesthetically pleasing area to walk to and congregate around, enhance local ecology for birds and pollinators, and engage youth with the virtues of ethical gardening.
Brownsville was historically a middle-income African-American area during the time of segregation. Once segregation ended then black professionals moved out of the area into wealthier neighborhoods leaving Brownsville in an economic depression that has continued until today. According to the most recent economic and educational indicators, the city is doing worse than even Liberty City. Problems include gun violence, lack of economic opportunities, drugs, prostitution, and blight. Miami is a diverse city and yet race, class, and nationality segregate many of its inhabitants. The city’s overdependence on cars means social isolation from neighbors despite the information revolution connecting us globally. Our answer is an ancient one in which the land heals generational trauma, to connect people to the earth and food thereby developing new multicultural communities.
My wife and I decided to move to Brownsville about two years ago in order to live with the communities that we serve; I am a teacher and she is an educational researcher. Our life is considerably different from living in Brickell. There is no grocery store in a 2.5-mile radius, we can cannot take walks in the neighborhood because of slum and blight, there are frequent gunshots on the weekends, and vacant lots are overflowing with trash.
To answer the community’s transportation and social challenges, we developed a prototype community garden on our property. The garden has attracts all sorts of people commenting on how much they enjoyed the flowers to wanting seeds and asking us to plant trees on their properties. Through the garden, we have taught children on our street how to plant, educated neighbors on medicinal herbs, shared financial skills on how to save to buy a home, and connected with residents across race and class. Most importantly, trust between newcomers and the older residents is being developed as we engage local churches and the oldest African-American mosque in Florida, Masjid al-Ansar.
The porotype community garden is ready for a pilot project in Glenwood Park. The county’s Parks and Recreation Department is in the process of giving us permission to proceed with the pilot community garden, the first in Brownsville. The community garden would serve 324 households in the five-block radius of the proposed garden, serving an approximate population of 1,296 residents in Brownville, where the median household income is $21,798. Additionally, the school of Bethune Head Start, three blocks away serves 247 students. Walking field trip visits to the community garden would be incorporated into the school’s curriculum as local field trips. Trees would be planted in the surrounding bus stops to shade the hundreds of public transportation riders in the neighborhood.
Perhaps for the first year, the pilot project will not have much of an effect on the traffic, but as people get better at growing what they need it will cut out one car based shop journey in four. The project would bring together your growers so they always ride share for other groceries too, we would be reducing local traffic, and your growing will add to that the more successful it becomes. With support from the local farming community, we hope to attract vendors to a weekly farmers market that accepts EBT cards and other forms of federal and state assistance to purchase fresh fruit and produce. With the success of this pilot project, it could be scaled to other communities in Brownsville, as there is a lot of unused vacant county land. In addition, the project has connected with Million Trees Miami to plant 8-10’ mature trees at the following six bus stops in the vicinity of the community garden- NW 43 Ter & NW 31 Av, NW 44 St & NW 32, NW 32 Av & NW 44, NW 32 Av & NW 43 Te, NW 32 Av & NW 41 St, and NW 32 Av & NW 46 St.
This garden will:
- Reduce traffic by providing fresh produce and fruit in walking distance, create an aesthetically attractive place for community gatherings and recreation, and develop tree canopy.
- Provide opportunities for participating youth and community members to learn and implement ways of growing their own food;
- Teach our neighborhood the skills of composting and organic gardening;
- Teach participating youth social-emotional skills such as patience, tenderness, and respect for all life;
- Provide low-cost ways to produce healthy and natural food for low-income households;
- Provide a visually and aesthetically pleasing environment for our neighborhood;
- Promote biological diversity, such as local pollinating bees;
- Provide local youth the opportunity to learn, and to be positive change-agents in our community; and
- Promote healthy ways of eating fresh produce that can prevent diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure that lead to stroke and heart attacks