On a sunny Palm Spring morning, Sunday, April 17, 2011, Community Greenhouse Partners welcomed nearly 75 people who came to help transform the front yard of the former St. George Catholic Church into a Forest Garden. Photographer Al Bell captured the day’s events with his camera lens.
The grounds hadn’t been maintained for a number of years, so there was lots of tree trimming. Chief Grower Hank Habermann, Site Manager Ben Shapiro and CGP Trustee Brooks Jones spent the week prior to the event cutting down a total of 6 trees that were unhealthy and which blocked needed sunlight.
Chainsaws buzzed and whined all throughout the week and the yard was scattered with tree trunks, limbs and branches from their handiwork. On Sunday, wheelbarrows and rakes were used, along with good old fashioned picking up by hand, to gather the small branches. This labor took a lot of the day’s time.
Before the work began, however, the group was treated to a presentation by Gary Paul Nabhan, “The Father of the Local Food Movement” according to Mother Easrth News, who gave an informal workshop on Heirloom Apples and the shrinking of biodiversity due to monocropping and inductrial agriculture. Nabhan, an internationally-celebrated nature writer, seed saver, conservation biologist and sustainable agriculture activist, was brought to CGP by Brad Masi from the New Agrarian Center, and Janet Fiskio from Oberlin College’s Environmental Studies department facilitated the visit of one of two special guests that day.
Nabhan is also an orchard-keeper, wild forager and Ecumenical Franciscan brother in his hometown of Patagonia, Arizona near the Mexican border. More than 35 students from Oberlin, University of Akron, Kent State University and others from the community sat in a group immersed in Gary’s tales about the history of the apple.
Afterward, the group went to work on the orchard. By the end of the day, grass again reappeared after being covered in a sea of twigs and branches. Large holes were dug throughout the yard. It looked as if a herd of giant gophers had moved into the neighborhood. Each hole exposed rich, dark (almost black) earth.
At mid-afternoon, many took a break to stand in semi circle around Senator Sherrod Brown’s Ohio Deputy Director Elizabeth Thames as she hosted an informal conversation about local and Ohio food issues. She told CGP staffers that the Senator is interested in doing a presentation in the Fall about the 2012 Farm Bill and its implications for Urban Agriculture.
While the site may have been a Lithuanian Catholic Church for almost a century, prior to that it had a previous life as the Beckinbach Farm. The earth is rich and will be a great home for the Katherine B. and Thomas H. Jones Memorial Woodland Garden, so named for the generous contribution from the Jones Charitable Trust of the Cleveland Foundation, who donated the funds necessary to purchase the trees and seeds planted in the space.
Saplings and whips now are firmly planted in the orchard. Various types of apple, pear and plum, bushes including huckleberry, blueberry and raspberry, plus many other varieties of plant life will round out the orchard. The goal is to create a true Forest Garden, to act as an example of how vacant land can be transformed into a healthy landscape that creates both community and economic development opportunities.
July 30, 2011 No Comments