Seeds & Stories
Seed and Gardening Stories
Community Garden Storytelling Project
of Flint (Report)
This report examines the benefits of community gardens and the supports
and barriers in existence to developing more gardens. It is published
by the University of Michigan School of Public Health, the Neighborhood
Violence Prevention Collaborative, and the Flint Urban Gardening and
Land Use Corporation. The report examines several Flint community gardens,
their effects on their respective communities, and the involvement of
the neighborhoods through participant observation, personal interviews,
photographs, and surveys.
The study found that the community gardens in Flint had several shared
characteristics. The six components of each of the community gardens
with their respective benefits to the community are:
1. the garden site involves beautification of a vacant lot
2. they are owned, cleared spaces
3. they are a place for neighbors to be social and meet
4. they offer free food for neighborhood residents
5. they necessitate neighbors to work together
6. they can be neighborhood youth programs
Each of these components leads to specific benefits. The study concluded
that community gardens improve neighborhood appearance, increase a sense
of ownership and hence increase monitoring of the garden site, reduce
dumping and garbage on site, increase property values, improve adult
neighbors’ social relationships, increase participation in neighborhood
organization, increase neighborhood pride, and increase youth development.
In addition to these benefits, the study also found that, through the
increased monitoring of the garden sites and neighborhoods, there was
some reduction in neighborhood crime. Of the Flint areas with community
gardens that were surveyed, most found that the formation of a block
club or neighborhood organization increased monitoring and reporting
of illicit activities, and the formation of the community garden increased
this monitoring and perhaps indirectly helped to decrease the crime.
In addition, the increase in social interaction of neighbors through
the organizations and gardens increased the chance that action would
be taken if something wrong was happening, rather than ignoring the
event. In conclusion, the report found that community organizations
and gardens improve conditions in neighborhoods and foster the ingredients
to neighborhood crime prevention.
For more information, see the Flint
Urban Gardening and Land Use Corporation, the Neighborhood
Violence Prevention Collaborative’s information on this project,
or the University
of Michigan School of Public Health’s Website.
The Flint Urban Gardening and Land Use Corporation Storytelling Subcommittee.
Community Gardens. Neighborhood Violence Prevention Collaborative
Evaluation Report, Copy available from Katherine Alaimo, School of Public
Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
From Seeds to Stories: The Community
Garden Storytelling Project of Flint, a book published
by the Flint Urban Gardening and Land Use Corporation and the Prevention
Research Center of Michigan and written by Katherine Alaimo and David
Hassler, tells the story of various community gardens in Flint. The
book is an expanded version of the similar report above. The introduction
explains that this storytelling project was started due to the fact
the "gardeners love to tell stories." The committee then went
into the community gardens of Flint (fourteen in all), and interviewed
the gardeners and took beautiful photographs, all included in the book.
Each story is told in the vernacular language of conversational speech.
For information on how to obtain the book, contact: FUGLUC, 3216 MLK
Ave., Flint, MI 48505; email@example.com.
Nikolai Vavilov's Seeds and the Siege
"The Vavilov Institute's seed collecting activity began in 1894,
when its scientists brought back the oldest, most resistant varieties
from all over the world. One major trauma in the history of St Petersburg/Leningrad
was the German siege from September 1941 to January 1944, when the city
remained without food for 900 days. It is invariably the first thing
to cross the lips of its citizens, whatever they do and whoever they
are. Thousands of people died of hunger and the only place in the city
where there was something to eat was the Vavilov Institute. But the
researchers religiously guarded the cultivated plant collection and
the seeds: no one ate them. When rats tried, they ended up as food for
the researchers. The determination not to harm the institute’s
treasures was such that nine people died of hunger there. At home and
elsewhere, the families of researchers also died. In those months researchers
found the strength to withstand the siege without profaning the collection.
In 1940, Vavilov, who was then the director of the institute, was arrested
by the KGB and died in a concentration camp in 1943" (SlowFood.com).
"Tending the earth's edible future reached its most poignant moment--certainly
its most courageous--during the Nazis' World War II siege of Leningrad.
The site of the world's largest seed bank--at which Russian botanist
Nikolai Vavilov and his army of ethno-botanists had stockpiled an astonishing
200,000 species--Leningrad endured 900 days of attack during which over
half a million people starved to death. Surrounded by harvested seed
crops, the collectors martyred themselves rather than consume the botanical
future. And when liberators finally entered the besieged facility, they
found the emaciated bodies of the botanists lying next to full, untouched
sacks of potatoes, corn and wheat--a priceless genetic legacy for which
they paid with their lives." Christina Waters, Sep. 5-11, 1996,
"Seeding the Future" in Metro Santa Cruz.
For more information on the story of Vavilov and his assistant's courageous
efforts to save biological diversity, see the following sources:
Blackwell, Elise. 2003. Hunger. Little Brown and Co.
Fowler, Cary and Pat Mooney. 1990. Shattering: Food, Politics,
and the Loss of Genetic Diversity. University of Arizona. 220-222.
Gore, Al. 1993. Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.
Visit the Vavilov All-Russian
Scientific Research Institute of Plant Industry's Website.
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