By Alex Zielinski
With a growing interest in locally produced food, frugality, and environmental awareness, Whiteaker residents have taken food production into their own hands. Urban gardening- whether it be a single potted spinach plant or five varied vegetable beds- is on the rise in a neighborhood where poverty and affluence collide.
Many gardeners hope to use their garden as both a food source and an educational resource, as they lose trust in major food processing corporations.
“I want my two children to know that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store or drive-in,” Nicole Williams, a resident of the East Blair Housing Cooperative, said. “It grows on trees and in the soil.”
Kale growing in a garden bed at the East Blair Cooperative
Williams shares a large urban garden, nestled between the building and an alleyway, with 30 other cooperative residents. The cooperative transformed an old parking lot into the garden a few years ago, which Williams said yield everything from nectarines to cilantro. However, she added that the garden makes up for only a small potion of the perishable foods the cooperative consumes.
Other families aren’t as flexible.
Nora Hernandez, a mother of three living in a Jackson St. apartment complex, said that her small fruit and vegetable garden is her family’s cheapest solution to fresh produce.
“It’s the easiest way to bring healthy food to my kitchen,” Hernandez said. “It’s very expensive these days to always buy vegetables at the store.”
Hernandez said that others in her building have garden beds and occasionally the families get together to share their produce.
An urban garden doesn’t only provide food, but shelter, to some.
Living in a Polk St. duplex, Mike Rogers yearly plants huge sunflowers to block out the merciless summer sun.
“Sure, I’m an eco-conscious guy, but my main goal here is protection,” Rogers said, adding that he can’t grow vegetables in his garden since cats frequently use it as a toilet.
Living in the area for most of his life, Rogers said that he’s definitely seen a rise in household vegetable gardens.
According to a report by the Garden Writers Association Foundation. Over 41 million U.S. households raised a vegetable garden last year, and 37 percent of the households are planning to increase their yield this season. These statistics appear to be in tandem with the Whiteaker’s trend.
Garden plots at the Whiteaker Community Garden
The Whiteaker neighborhood is also home to two community gardens, where over 100 plots are available to the public to rent for personal garden space.
Paul and Monica Adkins recently bought two plots in the Whiteaker Community Garden, which they hope will generate all of their produce for the summer.
“The future of food production is iffy,” Paul Adkins said. “I think we’re both mature enough to realize that this is the best solution.”
Adkins stressed the importance of bringing his children, ranging from ages four to nine, to their plots, so they can one day maintain urban gardens of their own.
“We need to prepare our children for whatever the future holds,” said Adkins.