Monday, August 16, 2010

Next Community Garden Potluck: August 20th, 5:30pm - Sundown

One of the West Ward's three community gardens, this one on the corner of Ferry and S. 5th Streets

Posted by: Noel Jones

One of the great things that has happened in the West Ward in the last couple of years is that community gardens have sprung up and continue to thrive. The garden on Ferry and 5th Streets has become a popular "third space" thanks to potlucks hosted by friends and neighbors of the garden.  Especially in this economy, it is terrific to have a community space where neighbors don't have to spend money, but can get together, enjoy homemade food, fresh air and share news while relaxing in the garden.

Below is a note from Joanne on the next garden potluck. Come on out this Friday, bring a dish, chat with neighbors and take some fresh veggies home with you for free! The view of Easton from the garden is gorgeous.

If you're planning on bringing a dish, post a comment, so that others know not to make the same thing!

Hi All,

Summer's flying by much too quickly!  Our August pot luck is scheduled for this Friday, 8/20, 5:30-ish.  (We were originally scheduled for the 27th but had to reschedule to the 20th.)  Please join us if you can.  As always-- great company, conversation, view and food. 
Despite the dry weather the garden is producing outstanding swiss chard and lettuce.  The tomatoes are coming in very slowly and we expect to have lots by next month.  Our last pot luck of the season will be Friday, 9/17. 

Joanne Walker Czeck
cell:  908.303.5058


Anonymous said...

The Community Gardens remain the only way we can revive the Cantons and what they stand for. The managers of the Urban Ecology fund are at a loss how to get this back on track. Well, they bit their noses to spite thier faces in the first place. Pride will not allow them own up to this. Nevertheless, it's our West Ward. Let us take pride in the success of the gardens as evidence of our ability to get things going again. West Wardians, our destiny lies in our hands not in Esther or WWNP, Mayor Sal Panto or CACLV. No! People we have what it takes, let's comeback together and do something for ourselves and our neighborhood. Come on West ward arise and shine! Now is the time to regroup through our cantons and organize for our freedom.

noel jones said...

Anon 9:55--The revival of the canton program will be a hard sell to any of the progressive residents who have already given the program two separate chances in the last two years. I understand that there are budget line items for each canton, and one would think that that would translate to at least one concrete result per canton per year. Otherwise, where has the money budgeted for the cantons been going? That would be a minimum of 16 projects from 8 cantons in two years. To date, out of 8 cantons in 2 years of the program we have 4 results that I know of:

10th & Pine Community Garden
5th & Ferry Community Garden
The West Word tri-annual newspaper
Collaborative design for the 13th Street Gateway

These are definite signs of progress, but for the canton program to have any integrity, the WWNP will have to convince residents that they really mean it when they say that they will put forward resident-driven initiatives, rather than telling residents what they should want to put forward. Residents catch on to that quickly, and stop attending.

I feel for Esther, because she has a tough job ahead of her--however, if anyone is up to the job, she is.

noel jones said...

She is engaging in real outreach in both the English-speaking and Latino communities, including the often-forgotten Flats residents down by the river. I think that the success of the canton program will rely on mostly new residents who were not involved in the canton program before. It's too bad, because residents were enthusiastic at first, and there were 20-30 people at each greater canton meeting in the beginning. Anyone who knows anything about attendance at public meetings in Easton knows that that is a very healthy turnout. But once Igho Herbert was dismissed, residents lost faith in the viability of the program and attendance dribbled away.

Then Tom Jones tried to revive the program several months later, and held one meeting in each canton, all of which I heard were poorly attended. At my canton meeting, there were were only two other people at the meeting that were not either Lafayette students, or employees of the WWNP. I was asked to support the program on the blog and was told that this would be the beginning of regular canton meetings starting again. It never happened.

One problem with the design of the canton program to begin with is the cantons themselves. While professed to be a citizen-driven way of organizing the neighborhood, the residents weren't even allowed to name their own cantons or decide where the borders would make the most sense--or whether borders made sense at all--it was all decided for residents--top down. The other flaw in the notion of cantons is that if the dividing line goes down the middle of a street where neighbors on either side are friendly, it disrupts that natural social networking that has already gone on in the neighborhood. A more logical way to go about it would be that rather than drawing borders, that each canton would be organized around a nexus, so that whatever nexus a resident is drawn to is the canton they belong to, and they can work on projects for that canton with the neighbors they are already friendly with. The community gardens work in this way--some people go to the 5th & Ferry garden, some go to 10th & Pine. In most cases it's because of proximity, but it also allows for those people in the "border" to go the the garden they feel most connection with--often that means the neighbors they feel the most connection with. That way neighbors who already like each other and want to work together aren't told that they live in different cantons and need to go to separate meetings.

I would like to see the canton program thrive, so that we can have more positive, concrete results like the ones I listed above as these have definitely made a positive impact on the neighborhood, but unfortunately for Esther, I think it's going to require starting from scratch, like Igho did. And it is going to require giving residents enough ownership of the program to at least decide how to organize themselves, and what they will be called--otherwise, claiming that it is a bottom-up citizen-driven program cannot be claimed with any integrity in grant reporting. And if the WWNP does intend to try to get this program going again, they mustkeep Esther on board, because if she is dismissed, the program will collapse again, just like when Igho left.

noel jones said...
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Anonymous said...

Also, its not a pretty sight when people with jobs at a college get paid extra out of this grant money while people who live in a low income neighborhood are asked to volunteer when all are working on the same project toward the same end. Its really a shame to have to raise such issue but it will never be made right until Lafayette gets real about where they are coming from and stop asserting class differences where some work is worthy of compensation and some is not. If they want to help develop this community they need the community's help. Compensation should go to all or none. Otherwise, dont help and just keep the grant money but dont lie about being a beneficent non profit who just happens to be profoundly wealthy but cant pay out your own pocket to have your professors and students doing what they should be doing anyway.

noel jones said...

So Lafayette professors are getting paid extra out of the WWNP grant money? I did not realize that--can anyone confirm this? If so, that is potentially upsetting when residents are being asked to spread themselves thin by giving volunteer time to meetings and activities on top of full time jobs, and then being told that they should grateful for what the college is doing for the neighborhood--especially when struggling middle-class residents cannot benefit from the weatherization program. I had thought that the payoff for the college was having a venue in which to educated students via internships, and that it would fall within the regular job description of the professors to teach the students. I head not heard that Lafayette professors are getting paid extra on top of their salaries out of grant money targeted for revitalizing our neighborhood. Before anyone gets upset, can anyone confirm this with some sort of verifiable information?