Community gardeners, http://www.flickr.com/photos/heacphotos/2648444593/
“Plant yourself on the grass,” Laurence Schechtman joked to a newcomer from his seat on a tough patch of turf outside of Faith Presbyterian Church in North Oakland.
Schechtman, a beret perched atop his cheerful countenance, had decided to run his community garden-organizing meeting in front of, rather than within, the church. Thus, attendees joined him on the grass, talking seed saving, cross-pollination and vegetative propagation techniques as they gathered.
When the crew of eight would-be garden organizers took their seats around Schechtman, he explained the goal of his group.
Neighborhood Vegetables is a loosely-organized list of people who have signed up over the past two years since the project started to participate in communal garden work days around the East Bay. Group membership – which now numbers 1,300 – is concentrated in Berkeley and Oakland, but stretches up into Richmond and a bit further south as well.
For those two years, Schechtman’s been organizing these garden work parties – at least one or two a weekend, sometimes more – where people who need help in their gardens gather with people who want to work in a garden – and get work done.
Now that the movement has begun, Schechtman wants to localize the work parties – decentralization, he calls it – and have individual neighborhoods take charge of the communal gardening effort he’s been managing for the past two years.
His vision is large; he hopes that one day, you’ll be able to walk to a neighborhood garden party in your area every weekend.
“What I’m hoping for that there will be enough organizers and enough neighborhoods so that this will really become a fixture of the East Bay,” Schechtman said in a recent interview.
Tonight, though, Schechtman was trying to pin down the eight North Oakland residents who had decided they wanted to support community gardening projects in their area.
Over the course of the meeting, attendees discussed the specifics of their neighborhoods (friendly to canvassers, friendly to local-only canvassers, unfriendly to canvassers, but amenable to lemonade stand solicitations) and tried to plan where the next garden party would be held. Connections were forged, e-mails exchanged and commitments made.
Schechtman, a long time political organizer, was no easy taskmaster.
“A meeting is never done until someone leaves with a job to do and someone to do it with,” said Schechtman.
Thus jobs were given and partners assigned.
Schechtman switched from politics to gardening when he decided building community was the basis for social change. Plus, he enjoys the company.
“The people who like to garden are much nicer than the people who like to do politics,” he said.
To sign up for updates on Neighborhood Vegetable’s weekend garden workday parties in your neighborhood, call Laurence Schechtman at (510) 540-1975 or e-mail him at email@example.com.