Like many a good story, this one starts from the end, working back to the beginning—at least, when this researcher last worked with the Aurora St. Anthony Peace Sanctuary Garden. This garden, a place of education and community advocacy, operates through the open-hearted and consistent efforts of its community members. With community leaders who are deeply embedded in the Twin Cities/Minnesota/National urban gardening movement, the Peace Garden flourishes and thrives. Through the course of the project, it became clear that establishing connection and collective knowledge through neighbors, friends, and other gardeners associated with nearby community gardens was an integral part of the Peace Garden’s development.
By the end of my tenure with the Peace Garden, an official alliance was created: the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance. Through this new organization, some of the original goals of the Peace Garden leaders could be met. When I first met Melvin Giles, one of the Peace Garden’s key members and my mentor, he said that his hope was to, “Feed the neighborhood [healthy, fresh food].” This overarching goal led to the pursuit of a grant* to help knit a group of community gardeners together, united by the goals of garden education, disseminating healthy food choice options, and establishing an emporium of garden knowledge. The Redesign of the Peace Garden became a design for a neighborhood, led by the people within it who deeply care about it.
As the summer of 2014 winds to an end, the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance reviews its successes with the Aurora/St. Anthony Peace Garden at its core.
The Aurora St. Anthony Peace Sanctuary Garden, developed 10 years ago by African American community leaders as a place to use gardening as a tool for community building, is a collaboration of six individual community gardens and backyard box gardeners growing food in the Summit-University (Rondo) and Frogtown neighborhoods in St. Paul. Through the cultivation and sharing of food, they promote reconciliation, healing, peace, and social and environmental justice. Their project is focused on creating a Neighborhood Garden Alliance that will work to strengthen the connections and relationships between the area’s many gardeners and gardens. The Neighborhood Garden Alliance will seek to feed the neighborhood by empowering people to grow their own food, meet, work with their neighbors, and share Rondo’s food culture with their families while fostering an increased sense of ownership by strengthening a connection to the land. The alliance will be a vehicle for community building among the area’s diverse residents, increasing access to fresh foods and engaging new leaders in their community through gardening.
Conducted on behalf of Aurora/St. Anthony Peace Sanctuary Garden. Supported by the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program, a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
ReDesign: Built from the Inside Out.
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