Imagining New Agricultural Landscape of Providence, Jisu Yang, B.Arch, Architecture, 2021
Changes happen when people who hold similar missions gather to form a community. At the beginning of my fellowship, Eliza and I visited Father Lennon community garden, a 50ft x 70ft sized plot located along Camden Avenue. What really surprised us was that the garden is entirely covered with weed and it did not have any vegetables growing on the land. I felt a strong urge to raise more attention in this garden since, with a little bit of help, the garden may grow and flourish as an active food hub for the neighborhood. The challenge was that the neighborhood was a low-income housing area where people did not have access to phones and computers. Hence it was difficult to establish a solid structure for organizing the garden.
When I raised this issue to my supervisor, I was notified that there is a clear boundary for how much government can provide support for individual gardens. Community garden gets established because the community gathers and requests the government to provide fundamental resources such as land and water. Yet, it is not the responsibility of the government to maintain individual organizations of the garden and if this becomes the task, they cannot maintain large network of the garden system.
Instead of giving up, what I chose to do is to reach out to Eliza and see if there is anything we can do to re-activate the garden. Looking at the map, I realized that the community garden is located between the Recreation center and elementary school. Although those institutions do not hold responsibility for taking care of the garden, I imagined what if they collaborate to run programs for participants and students and maintain the garden? In this case, it is a win-win situation for both academic institutions and community gardens? I shared all of these thoughts with Eliza and she also thought it was a great idea to maximize assets of existing contexts. After reaching out to Shawn from the Recreation center, we had a meeting and eventually organized a date for communal weeding! Fortunately, we were able to find a connection with the organization in Providence College who are commissioned to do service for community works! August 25, there were lots of people including students from Providence College and people from the neighborhood who gathered and helped clean the garden to have it ready for fall seeding!
Prairie street view
Imagining a new street with more agricultural practice in Providence
My ultimate learning from working with the Parks department is that there has already been a lot of movements on urban farming and food justice. My focus during the fellowship was to create a common ground where different organizations and movements come together. As an architecture student, I often imagine what would it be like if the reality is a little different from what is right now. August 27th, on my last day of working in the Parks Department Botanical Center, I couldn’t stop but keep thinking what would it be like to walk along the street that is full of trees and planters? What would it be like if these dead parking lots are turned into public gardens? What would it be like to take berries from the street when I feel hungry? What would it be like to encounter a pocket of green space in the middle of a dense urban district? What would it be like to harvest corn next to the bus station every morning on my way to work? What would it be like to go out on the street every weekend with my children to take care of trees and planters?
How do we make this happen?
To make imagination come true, I believe we need to form a community of people who hold similar faith, who is aware of the environment and who believes in creating a better world by making simple changes. Although my fellowship ends, I gained huge confidence and courage to continue my research and role as an environmental activist to seek other opportunities to work with the community leaders in Providence to construct new branding of urban agriculture in Providence.