Friday, April 29, 2016

Come out and join the fun... There is a space here for everyone!

The Randolph Community Gardens is a space filled with opportunity, hope and growth.  
As spring begins to fade away with unpredictable temperatures, Mother Dawn prepares the space for cultivation. Cultivation of not just the flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruits, but also of the youth, the working class, the poor and the elderly. A space where all members of the community can come and share in the beautiful nature of its essence. 


Friday April 8th 2016

The day was cool with mild winds, 
I took a stroll into the community gardens... 
New spaces provide new opportunities for community members to feel welcome, feel loved and do what they love to do.... grow their food, grow food for others and grow together. 

Saturday April 23 2016 

 While the weather has warmed a bit,
 I went back to the gardens to seek human interaction.....

 However, I must have missed everyone, 
although no one was there, 
they left the evidence of their fun!

And new spaces for more inspiration!

While the weather here in central Illinois is finally at a point of fun in the sun and rainy days perfect for cultivation,
I shall continue to seek my own community integration...

I cant wait to see you at the Randolph Street Community Garden! 


Friday, April 22, 2016

Boundaries of Trust

Community garden… COMMUNITY garden… community GARDEN…

In a wistful afternoon in April, I murmured these words with myself as I approached the garden, each time with the stress on a different word. I had been wondering for a while now who was this community? How do you understand whether you are part of that community or not? How does the trust system work? Is it an implied sense or a spatial factor?

And then I saw the fenced boundary of the site. It was very different with what I imagined it to be. It was more of a suggestion than an imposition. It was friendly and subtle, and at the same time indicated that once you’re inside, you are part of something collaborative.

The spatial characteristics of the fence wasn’t working as a guard but more as a definition or a hedge line. Its ends didn’t meet with another fence and instead it was hanging out by itself. It acted as a metaphor of hope. More like a gesture hoping for an expanded future.

Even the berms that surrounded the community garden were simply informing you of an existence. The existence of a possibility that something is happening on top of the berm behind these colorful benches.

The lock on the shed could easily be opened. It was merely a way of keeping the doors closed and protecting the tools from being damaged and the other stuff inside it from being deteriorated. The list of tasks was mostly a collective effort to keep up with pace of the garden. Everything was shouting: “you can be one of us”, even though no one was in the garden at that time.


Finally, my eyes glanced over to the planting beds within the community garden. I saw small supporting structures that were marking boundaries of plants to be grown out of the soil soon. These fostered a protected platform for each plant to flourish.

Being delighted by this passive sense of inclusion, as I approached the beddings it was very clear to me that there are again boundaries but it was as though, one melted into the other and the soil, air and the rain drops that were feeding these, were uniting them all in their one goal of growing food, fun and friendship!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Community Gardening for One

8 April 2016

A cold day in the spring kept trading rain for snow then rain again but then in the middle of the afternoon, bright sunshine broke through and it seemed like a good time to check in at the community garden to see if any tools needed repairs. Friday afternoon at 3 isn’t when most people go to the gardens and a cold, rainy day is probably not the best time for planting or digging in the dirt but the last time we were working in the garden, several of the wheelbarrows needed some minor repairs. With nuts and bolts, drills and an air pump to inflate the tires, I went off to the garden thinking I could make a few repairs before people needed the tools over the weekend.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived was a new mound of mulch and a small mound of stones in the parking area. Daffodils were blooming along the paths and in some of the raised beds. The trees that had only begun to bud in March were in full bloom and had small leaves in the cheerful green of a long spring.

The shed was full of tools stacked right up to the threshold and there were more wheelbarrows in good repair than had been there before. I checked the legs and the handles and noticed several new bolts and some pieces of wood that had been added to stabilize the parts that had been loose earlier in the spring. It was immediately evident that the community garden takes care of itself and it finds the tools it needs to keep going. It had been a couple of weeks since Mother Dawn had said that the tools needed some repair and someone else heard and responded more quickly than I could. Seeing the shed so full of tools and specifically seeing new bolts next to old rusted bolts and hand crafted repairs showed that there is great skill in this community and that the community uses its skills to enhance everyone’s opportunities.

I looked at the list of tasks that is always taped on the inside of the door and noticed that most of the tasks right now involve weeding and spreading mulch. Several tasks are about rearranging and moving some heavy things. I tried to find a task that I could do alone since I hadn’t seen anyone else in the gardens so far that day. 

I decided to mulch the area around the picnic table that is next to the grape arbor. I moved 8 loads of mulch as the day turned cold again and began to snow and rain. Walking back and forth from the arbor to the mulch pile gave me a good look around the garden. I said “hi” to people waiting for the bus. A few people walked by and watched me work and one man walked by throwing a ball for his dog to fetch. I worked alone and felt the centrality of this location in this community. I was in the middle of everything and everywhere I looked, even on this cold day, I could see the neighborhood filled with people. I wanted to stay but just as I spread the 8th load of mulch, it began to snow hard so I put the tools away for the day.

It was good to be in the community garden alone, to see the evidence of the community that is always active and changing. Observing what had been done since I was last there probably revealed more about how many people come together to work in this space than I could have gleaned had the garden been full of people that day. The task I did choose to do was one of the only ones that could be done alone in the garden. I was grateful that there was a solo task available but I also realized how rich the garden is for cultivating. It is not just cultivating what is grown but the opportunity to help another person shoulder a difficult task is grown in that space too. I grew in perspective that day. The passing of time and the progress of change revealed the impacts of a community that while not standing and working with me in the garden that day, was most certainly present and active in that space.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Garden as a social space

April 2nd Saturday
By Hiroki Kyo, University of Illinois exchange student in LAS
As Karin mentioned in the previous blog, this series of posts was written by students in the group investigating social spatial aspects of the local community of Lumbisi, Ecuador, ENG 498: Sustainab]e Development Proiject.
I was in the garden for about 2 hours on Saturday morning. It has been a long time since I have played such a long time with soil, weeds, worms and centipedes because I live in city in my country. (Maybe the last time I entered into a garden was when I was in middle school.) It was nothing but  fun. I enjoyed the lovely labor and talking with Ms. Blackman and people came to the garden on that windy spring day. I am sharing some information of the garden that I got by asking question to Ms. Blackman today and I will try to analyse (extract) some of the spatial aspects of the Community Garden.

People around the Garden
As I learned in our class and in the garden, the garden is the place for offering fresh vegetables, education, and job training, and Ms. Blackman plays the significant role to facilitate this essential community space. 2000 people were provided food from this garden in 2015, which include the people who live around the garden and through the food pantry of church 
(the Champaign church of the Brethren, it takes 3 minutes walking from the garden).
In addition, the garden is also the place of learning for children. There is a school next to the garden and they learn how foods come from the nature. This garden acts as the education center for children. Also, it’s a job-training site for teenagers.
Although it was my first time to visit here and I am a foreigner who came to study abroad, she gave me ?gloves and shared the work for the day as soon as I arrived at the garden and said hello to her . So that I could soon work with people as we have talked about the plants, weather and our city. It seemed like I became a member of the local community of the area. She said “I am almost always here so feel free to visit again.” She is connecting not only the local communities but also communication of individuals.
Thus the Randolgh Street Community Garden is connecting people around the community as an open public space.
Space in the Garden
(The Map of the Garden)
Before becoming this community garden, the space was a school district. The garden is now separated into plots and each plot can be owned by anyone by signing up on the website. Each plot is owned by each group or individual.

We have tons of clues to learn from this community space, which has strong roots in the community, and we can apply to our long-term research and projects.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Learning How Community Grows at the Randolph Street Community Gardens

We are a group of student researchers investigating the long-term sustainability of an irrigation project in Lumbisi, Ecuador. Our central research question for the irrigation project:

What is the spatial configuration of Lumbisi beginning from an outsider's etic perspective and moving toward a local emic perspective? 

As we develop and refine our research questions and methodologies, we have the great fortune to connect with a local community in Champaign.

The Randolph Street Community garden is a vibrant space where community members come together to grow and share food and simultaneously form community through the shared maintenance of the garden and gathering space. Since none of the students in our group had strong ties to the garden before this class, we will begin as outsiders to the garden but through the spring planting and growing season, we may make connections that help us move ever closer to understanding how the community sees and describes itself as a social space and a space to socialize.

We can’t wait to start learning and growing with the garden this year and to develop strong roots in our Champaign community and healthy starts for our long-term research goals.