A Look at Shared Spaces – Brooklyn & Belize

Brooklyn and Belize have more in common than one might think.  In these varied urban environments, the need to congregate, eat local food and find new uses for existing public structures are universal commonalities.

(1) a parking lot, in a country where many don’t have cars and must hitch-hike, wisely becomes the home for a farmer’s market

(2) a forgotten high-rise roof becomes a community garden

(3) a fireman’s pier becomes a pizza for the people

(4) an abandoned wall becomes an open art gallery

Photo Credit: Aminah Ricks

Cultivating More than Veggies In Belize City

Tucked away on a long street in Belize City, lies the first Urban Garden in the country.  Belize, for all its lush landscape, actually imports a disproportionate amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Which makes The Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace, more than an urban garden, it is also a project which aims to empower residents to not just eat healthily, but also locally while becoming independent of costly imports. After visiting their garden, we interviewed the principal gardeners/activist to learn more.

Belize garden 2

E.C.  When was the garden founded, was it the motivation of residents, city officials?

UGFSP As children we always had backyard gardens so gardening is not a new concept to some of us. The Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace is a Belize Action Community project that seeks to grow both people and trees to mitigate poverty. This idea was extended to other organizations and individuals in 2006, when Belize began holding mutual improvement alliance meetings at Liberty Hall in Belize City.  Many old and young people have participated so far and we continue to look for more organizations and people to step up to this task.  In 2015 after a youth summit, where we had young adult youth leaders from 5 Central American Countries, we found several passionate young Afro Belizean adults who wanted to be a part of a program that could positively influence their social, economic and environmental ambitions for themselves and Belize.  At this particular time food security and peace is of vital importance. All over the world and in Belize we are experiencing many diseases at alarming rates because of the food we eat that is harming the human body.

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E.C. How did you come up with the name?

UGFSP It was created by Louis E Guild of the Belize Action Community who has been involved with human and environmental development issues all his life.

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E.C. How many working members do you have and tell us a little bit about how you and others gave up paying jobs to be a part of this project?

UGFSP The UGFSP is a vocation for ten people. I (Emerson Guild) have had no greater joy than volunteering for this UGFSP Project.  Now our primary support comes from EmergentCorp, Belize Youth Department and The Ministry of Agriculture. These agencies along with others, continue to support the volunteers of the UGFSP. And yes there are four people, including myself, volunteering at the UGFSP who have given up paying jobs to be a part of this noble idea that continues to demonstrate self-reliance and team work.

Here is some of their feedback

  • Sheryl Joseph I joined the Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace because my sister introduced me to the garden, I was very inspired the very first time I stepped in the garden…learning about our vegetables and fruits was such a simple but yet, eye opening change. I’ve felt liberated to share the little info that I’ve learned.  The garden allowed me to do I always say to think right, you must eat right.
  • Jamal Reid In August 2015, Emergent Corp facilitated the 11th CABO youth summit, held at UWI (University of West Indies) in Belize City. Two to three weeks later we decided to embark on Our Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace mission with Kadeem Bennett the founder of Belize Volunteers Club and Mr. Emerson Guild Manager/Director of Emergent, I realized that it was something that I liked to do plus I really do enjoy teaching other people that come to visit the work we have done, especially the children that visit us from the schools since it shows them something important & meaningful that they can be doing with their lives.
  • Shenyl Joseph I gave up my paying job to be a part of the Urban Garden because I was tired of the call center and wanted something more, at the garden I see and feel creativity because I am creative.

E.C. What is the underlying issue in Belize City with fresh food that this garden aims to resolve?

UGFSP Creating food security and peace as a catalyst for environmental harmony in troubled communities.

E.C. We noticed that you have a composting area, tell us about that.

UGFSP We are composting and creating organic teas for fertilizer on our garden site with materials such as dry grass, fruit and vegetables peel, leaves, anything natural that can biodegrade and be used in a different way.

E.C. What have been the key successes so far and what do you hope to improve?

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UGFSP Here is our short list:

  1. The Urban Garden for Food Security and Peace is still active, especially since the flood that had destroyed/drowned almost 400 of our plants
  2. We have already harvested since the garden started Hot peppers, Bell/sweat peppers, and harvested almost every day is our Spinach, Callao and tomatoes.
  3. We have motivated a few people to start their own gardens.
  4. We have found different ways to do gardening with either vertical, raised beds or self-feeding boxes, using recycle materials such as empty plastic bottles etc.
  5. One of our members Kadeem Bennett visited Grenada to participate in an open forum about agriculture.
  6. Some of our members will get the chance to participate in a 2-week permaculture course which is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.

We hope to improve in all aspects of us working together, whether it is in our personal development or in our everyday work at the Urban Garden, we’re definitely striving to improve in everything we do.

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E.C. What would you say is the most rewarding aspect?

UGFSP The most rewarding aspect of is harvesting the food from the plants, you learn something new each day, working together in unity.

E.C. How has the community responded?

UGFSP We have and continue to receive invitations to visit schools and community centers to deliver our message and also many residents have visited our Urban Garden.

E.C. What is the next step for your group, what is your biggest goal/aspiration?

UGFSP Our goal at UGFSP is to create and explore good practices and examples for food security and peace. Our daily work activities may seem casual but are very scientific in nature and geared to the pursuit of “LIFE” the activity in harmony with nature.

To learn more or offer support follow UGFSP on Facebook

Seeing Havana with Fresh Perspective

Seeing Havana, Cuba through the lens of Ethan Kent provides a fresh perspective on a city that works for the people, through the artful and sensitive urban design.

We see children playing in the streets, outdoor markets, large middle median walkways and piazzas. All cultivate and reinforce the idea of community.

A sense of community is the pulse of any city that hopes to motivate its citizens towards their best selves — independently and together.

Look at Havana again. Perhaps we can learn something from a city that is not yet car-centric. Instead, it stands as a champion of pedestrians and life unfolding outdoors.

 

Photography Credit: Ethan Kent

Community Garden Q & A

Featuring Christine Evers/San Francisco Bay Area

How long have you been a member of your community garden?
-I’ve had a plot in the Brisbane community garden for about 15 years.

What are the best months for gardening and the most difficult?
-The garden produces most abundantly in the spring and summer, but in the SF Bay area we can grow vegetables year-round.

What do you plant in high season and in low season?
-In the spring, I usually plant lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, squash, string beans. This year I also grew miniature corn, very tasty. I like to grow crops that either taste better than those I find for sale or (like fresh baby corn) are not easily available. In the fall, I plant a variety of greens. This winter I planted several types of kale, Asian broccoli, and collards. These typically continue producing throughout the winter. I also have a rhubarb plant, which is dormant in the winter, but produces every spring. It is surprising how much you can grow in a small plot.

Chris Ever's Garden Produce Photo                                 Photo Credit: Christine Evers

What do you enjoy the most about the experience and what is the greatest challenge?
-I enjoy watching my plants grow, eating the crops I have grown, and sharing them with others who don’t garden. I also enjoy the physicality of gardening—the mild exercise, feeling the warmth of the sun, and smelling the earth. The garden also provides fellowship. It is a great way to meet people who live in town, but are not close neighbors.

Dealing with insects, snails, and gophers can be a frustration. It can also be a challenge to take care of my plot when I’m working a lot. However, that is a good challenge; I need the incentive to put down the computer and get outdoors.

How has it effected your relationship to your community and neighbors?
-As I said above, the [community] garden provides a place for people who live in different parts of town to come together. It certainly fosters a sense of community and I’m glad the city provides this service.

Excited by your community garden?  Share your story with Emerging.City to be featured in an upcoming column.  Reach out at query@emerging.city

 

Feature Photo Credit: Aminah Ricks

Quick Question Column

Quick Question - a monthly column about life where you live

This month features:

John Swiecki, AICP
Community Development Director

Quick Question:
What thrills you about your neighborhood, San Mateo Highlands in California?

Quick Answer:
The sense of community.  The whole neighborhood is situated around a community center, pool and elementary school, the sense of community that is fosters, seeing your neighbors.  Joseph Eichler designed many of the homes and the area has rediscovered and appreciated this Eichler heritage.

 

Elevating City Life