Friday, July 15, 2011

Tuv Ha'Aretz 3rd annual edible garden bike tour

Spoke cards from previous bike tours; this year's is the yellow one.
On Sunday, July 10, Portland Tuv Ha'Aretz, Portland's Jewish connection to sustainable, ethical food for all, hosted our third annual garden bike tour. Led, as always, by intrepid Tuv member Beth Hamon, this year's ride theme was building community through edible gardens, specifically (and obviously) community gardens, for which Portland is justly famous.

A bit of Portland's community garden history:

The Community Garden program, founded and managed by Leslie Pohl-Kosbau, has provided gardening opportunities for the physical and social benefit of the people and neighborhoods of Portland since 1975. (Leslie has recently retired after 35 years on the job, and all gardeners in Portland, not to mention every citizen of the city, gardener or not, owes her a tremendous thank you for her work in making our city more beautiful and more edible).

There are 35 community gardens located throughout the city, developed and operated by volunteers and Portland Parks & Rec staff, offering a variety of activities. Immensely popular since their inception, there's now a 3-year waiting list (with over 1000 names on it) for a plot. A local nonprofit, 1000 Gardens, is hoping to add another 1000 plots by 2012.

We started our ride at the Woodlawn Community Garden, which is 14 years old this year, and shares space with Woodlawn Elementary School. One unique feature of this garden is the Thai jar rainwater-harvesting cistern, the first of its kind in the northwest United States, which was installed in 2007. It collects rainwater from the school roof, which is then piped to spigots placed throughout the garden:

Thai rainwater jar at Woodlawn Community Garden
Our next stop was the Rigler Peace Garden, located at 54th and NE Prescott. Here's some info about this special place:

Inverted gazebo roof with rain chain at Rigler Peace Garden.
In 2000, Will Levenson and Starr Hogeboom, Friends of Trees volunteers who were in the Cully neighborhood selling trees door-to-door, noticed an ugly, dusty piece of land that Rigler School was using for overflow parking. Given that the neighborhood had no park, they came up with the idea of creating a community garden in that space. For the next two years, they applied for grants, recruited volunteers, solicited donations from local businesses, filed for city permits, and negotiated a lease with Portland Public Schools to prevent the land from being sold. In total, the group received $60,000 in grants and $10,000 in fundraising. Donated materials were worth an estimated $40,000. The garden opened in September 2005.

The Rigler Peace Garden, as it was unofficially named by the group of volunteers who built it, is used for both community gardening and for education. Its entrance, made of bricks and featuring a shiny sculpture made of galvanized steel and student artwork, invites children to learn about natural science as well as how to grow flowers and vegetables. A concrete path leads to a gazebo where teachers hold class. The inverted roof of the gazebo captures rainwater and funnels it down a chain into an underground storage tank that is connected to a hand-operated water pump. The north side of the garden is shaded by dozens of native trees, each one sponsored by a different Rigler classroom.

Student artwork decorates the gate at Rigler Peace Garden
Our final stop was at Columbia Ecovillage, a sustainable co-housing community in NE Portland. Our friend Dennis is one of about a dozen Jewish members of CEV, and he gave us a tour:

Dennis (turquoise T-shirt) shows us the hazelnut trees CEV has planted in the parking strip; the nuts are intended to be shared with CEV's neighbors.

Dennis and chickens. CEV has 30 birds, including a rooster. Eggs, anyone?

Just a portion of the amazing garden space at CEV.

Bees at CEV.

5,000 gallon water tank, which harvests gray water from the roof to use in watering the garden. CEV can store up to 29,000 gallons of water with its tanks.

Thermostat and namaste inside the temperature self-regulating greenhouse.

Dennis assembled a salad for us, complete with edible flowers.

Group photo at CEV.
So what's Jewish about all this? The examples of community building we saw in the gardens and at CEV aren't specifically rooted in Judaism, of course, but as Jews interested in making strong, lasting connections with our neighbors and the land we live on, we can learn (glean?) much about how to build a Jewish community from what we saw on this ride. It requires patience, determination, a willingness to compromise and listen, and affords ample opportunities, as with reclaiming the land for the Rigler Peace Garden, to practice tikkun olam, repair of our world.

You can see more pictures from the ride here.

1 comment:

bikelovejones said...

In three years of putting these bike-garden tours together, I have yet to hear of another Hazon-CSA group doing anything like this. Are we the first? The only? I don't know but it'd be great to see this replicated elsewhere.