On Friday, we visited the School of Agriculture and a local theater to meet a few important players in the community. We ended up meeting quite a few people, influential and passionate members of an intricate system of community betterment. It really gave me an idea of the type of neighborhood and people we are working and how so much can be accomplished, sometimes slowly and then all at once. Visiting the gardens that were on the grounds of the school of Agriculture and learning about how community gardens are seen and developed in Italy was quite fascinating, especially compared to those I am accustomed to in the United States. Often, the base need of a community garden sprouts (no pun intended) from the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the area or community. This leads to a strange phenomenon, a food desert, where many inhabitants are confined to a certain area without proper food and are both lacking nutrition and are overweight. In communities like these, locals are plagued by lack of healthy options as well as usually uneducated when it comes to their own health and that of their families. A community garden lets the neighborhood not only increase their health and nutrition but often learn about maintaining this overall good health.
However, in Italy, it is much less about the physical food and more about the sense of community, of coming together and of creating and growing something. This comes with challenges because the reality is, there is always a possibility that those who are in the neighborhood simply will not want the garden and since they have no need for one, they are far less likely to keep it alive. The answer to this, as it seems may be the case in many things, may be to get children involved.
Children, as we have read recently, have a profound and overflowing sense of creativity and an astonishing ability to create something extraordinary out of literally nothing. This is seen in how they play in the streets of New York City and also Perugia, or in any backyard in any street, most likely in any city in the world. As a wonderful poet, whose name now escapes me and whose poems I cannot translate correctly, once wrote (paraphrased) a poet must hold onto the wonder of youth if he would like to continue being a poet – to see the world through the eyes of a child, like everything is new and wonderful.
To many children, to see physical growth, one that they have contributed to, could be a really incredible thing. I remember distinctly as a child reading the book Seedfolks about a community garden and then growing roots out of beans in bags of droplets of water. I was in complete awe, watching little veinlike roots sprout and push out even further each morning, and after lunch and before I went home. That book reminds me a lot of the community surrounding the Agriculture school community garden, as well as the various characters in the whold neighborhood. Each brings their own expertise, their own story and background and a desire to help. Each person wants the same thing, to better their community for those around them and this complex, creative network gives them that avenue. It is similar to what Tania said regarding sharecropping, but of course from a place far more rooted in love and mutual respect. I felt that Friday I truly saw all the various components of this neighborhood – the people that come out of the woodwork even on gloomy, cold, rainy days to feed cats or visit their friends or walk around with their friend the pupeteer and some students. It really was reflective of how a strong community operates – much like the one in Seedfolks. Sometimes vast differences can become the greatest strengths.
Thinking of it makes me want to transport to that time again, to read Seedfolks and day dream about growing pineapples and kiwi in my backyard, not quite understanding climate quite yet, but none the less wanting to try. Watching a garden grow is magic, watching a neighborhood grow is magic and learning to love differences and work together is magic — maybe children can bring a community back to that realization faster than anyone, a community of Seedfolks.