Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - Survival Can Be Ugly

Beware, community gardeners of Binghamton, New York.  Prepare for battle.  Our gardens are endangered.  Forces we thought were friendly are massing and their eyes are on our gardens.

Our gardens are under attack.  Our gardens are in danger.  No, I'm not talking rabbits, groundhogs or deer.  Not talking about powdery mildrew, late blight, or downy mildew.  I'm not even talking about cucumber beetles, squash bugs or colorado potato beetles.  We know about those foes.  We prepare for them each year.

The enemy is...get ready.....We are about to be attacked by friendly fire.  Our enemy is - our local regional farmers market-to-be?  We are fighting a planned indoor FARMERS MARKET?

I blinked and rubbed my eyes when I read the letter.  It was the letter we got yesterday from the hard working president of the Otsiningo Community Gardeners Association, the Association that my spouse has been part of since its inception.

We know what it is like to lose a community garden to developers.

It happened in 1993 (I finally have a date!) and many people fought hard to get us a new garden.  Now, we must get ready to fight again, 20 years later.

According to our president, these are the facts:
Our current permit with with Broome County expires in  2015.

In the meantime, a Regional Farmers Market is planned not far from our gardens.  And, it turns out, that Regional Farmers Market is our enemy.  Quoting from the letter "The County might decide that additional parking is more valuable....".  But here is the clincher:

If our community garden is unkempt, and an eyesore the County just might take our land for parking. (betcha they would take it anyway if our community gardener was designed by Martha Stewart?)

In a way he is right.  If we don't show pride, then it's a very handy excuse.  But pride did not save the Ithaca Community Gardens, now in grave danger from developers, just an hour from us.

Do a Google search for "endangered community gardens" and you will get over 3,000,000. results.  So, we should take this threat very seriously.  Thank you, John, for the wake up call.

I would like to address our county executive Debbie Preston and also Tarik Abdelazim, who is running against her.  After all this is an election year.  To you both, I would like to say:

Broome County is a blighted area.  You can't deny this.  Old Endicott-Johnson shoe plants and other abandoned plants litter our urban landscape.  Our downtowns contain many vacant buildings, some (I am told, and I have no reason not to believe this) kept that way by absentee landlords as tax breaks.

Various neighborhoods, including the beloved Westover I live in, are full of abandoned structures from the 2011 flood.  I could go out there right now and photograph them, but I choose not to.  What is the sense?

I could start a blog called "Eyesores of Broome County" and have enough material to last a lifetime. Am I proud of that? Not really.

We all hope the Regional Farmers Markets will attract people to our area.  It's not a wild dream.  Later this month I am traveling to Asheville, NC and one of the draws is their regional farmers market.  It will take your breath away.  It was studied by those planning our regional market.

There are a lot of hard working people in that garden.  Immigrants, poor people, working class people, and yes, people with health problems, people caretaking elderly relatives, people working 2 or  more jobs to make ends meet, and maybe others having good reasons why their gardens are not picture perfect.  It isn't just laziness or not caring that can cause a less than picture perfect plot.  People here struggle every day.

Ms. Preston or Mr. Abdelazim community gardens are a means of survival for the people of Broome County.  Survival isn't always pretty.  Sometimes survival is ugly.

If you want our land, tell us.  Tell us up front. Give us something concrete to work with.

Don't tell us in 2015 that our gardens weren't pretty enough.

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