Plotting at the South East 4th Street Community Garden
Bob Ellenberg
March 1999

One of the great passions in my life is gardening. I've been doing it for 30 years, half my lifetime. I learned about it and never let it go. This past fall when I moved out of my house I decided to begin gardening at the McRorie Community Garden, just east of the GRU office on SE 4th Avenue. This is a half-acre plot that belongs to GRU and was designated to be used by them to park large equipment. Some strong community advocacy with the City Commission changed their minds, though, and the City designated the area as a Community Garden. The City put in an irrigation system, fenced the area, dropped off a load of wood chips to be used to mulch the paths between the plots and gave the community its blessings. Imagine.

I planted kale, collards, lettuces, radishes, broccoli. All have been doing very well for the past couple of months. To me, it's sort of the miracle of life, like birthing children, or caring for them. You put in a bit of sweat energy turning up the plot, like making passionate love, plant seeds or put in plants, plant your seed/will your egg to fertilize, tend to them with water and some love, and voila! Some of these particular plants just keep on producing organic greens throughout the winter. Like children tended to and loved properly, there will be good healthy results.

One afternoon while down there, I met one of the other gardeners, Ellen Huntley, and we decided to work together to help bring the plot alive. She has been involved for a while and knew more about the organization than myself, but what I liked is that she also enjoyed going on manure runs. Imagine another shit shoveler like myself. We have made two runs already out to horse farms and brought back sweet smelling composted manure for all to use. Many other manure runs will be made to bring to the garden the nutrients it needs to produce the food we need. This always seemed like a more than fair exchange: Add shit to the earth and she gives us back food. Hmmm.

There are 24 garden plots, each about 13' x 14'. After I put in my garden this fall I realized that most of the plots were not in use and contacted the man who had coordinated things for the past year, actually the first year of this project, and he turned it over to me. Something else to do But it is my passion. Like sex, once you learn about it, you can't seem to give it up.

I called a number of people who had previously gardened there and with Ellen's encouragement, we had seven people working on garden plots by Saturday morning. Now for me, who had my earliest gardening experiences on one of them there hippie communes in the early 1970s, it was really a thrill to be out with a group of enthused gardeners. I met new people who are activists in the community, some experienced gardeners, and others who were just learning. And, most of all we can talk shit and understand our vital connection with it and what it brings to us.

I expect the McRorie patch to have all the plots filled by the time this article is printed, but there's more to come. The City of Gainesville has pledged to help the community with Community Gardens. To begin a new one, there needs to be a coordinator, an assistant, and one other to get the City's attention. They will do for your group what they did for ours. You also need to find the plot of land that belongs to the city, but maybe something can be worked out if it's private. Contact Pat Byrne with the City of Gainesville Parks Division at 334-2171 and fill out an application. If you want other information you can call me at 335-4335.

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