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Get to Know NorthWest Pasadena Community Garden

Get to Know NorthWest Pasadena Community Garden

The Urge to Community Garden

By Mark Rice

ValentinesGarden1Back in the late 20th century there was a liquor store at the corner of Howard and Navarro, considered the most dangerous place in Pasadena.  Harambee, a religious group bought a house across the street from this liqueur store and brought Bob Burnett and his family out from an intentional agrarian community in Pennsylvania to try to transform this community.  The liquor store burned to the ground and since I was the local garden activist – we were just starting what has turned into Muir Ranch at the High School around the corner – I got a call to discuss starting a community garden.  The seed was planted but took longer than celery to germinate.

A few years later the land was still bare when Harambee, the Director of Public Health and the community again explored creating a community garden, leading to the replacement of the chain link fence, the installation of some raised beds and two years to find funding to purchase the land.

By the summer of 2013 the garden was experiencing more of an ebb than a flow when local activist Lydia Breen, joined the garden and helped program regular “art in the garden” events starting in September 2013.  Forty events later I attended the most recent event just in February.

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On Valentine’s day the community gathered.  Local Permaculture teacher Larry Santoyo presented a new design, Pasadena Public Health provided nutritional education and healthy snacks, the local CERT representatives talked about emergency preparedness, and local artists and natural building experts provided programs for the kids.  It was the best garden event I’d witnessed at Northwest Pasadena Community Garden.

But alas this story has taken an unfortunate turn as the garden manager was locked out by the lease holder over a disagreement about autonomy, garden rules, and the future of the lease.  And the lease holder was Harambee!  Ironic and a little painful, negotiations continue and a significant win is at hand if the various stakeholders practice the collaboration we see out here in the garden. And again, the moral for me is to keep communicating and be the community we want. As Ghandi said, if we demand an eye for an eye we’ll all end up blind.Valentines_Garden2

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