Green Tonic Urban Gardening Symposium Inspires Richmond
by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Lewis Ginter’s Green Tonic symposium last week was a great success. Architects, journalist, concerned citizens, students and urban planners turned out to learn more about urban gardening and how cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and New York have used plants and gardening to transform their landscape. The amazing part to me is that the national urban greening movement is catching on at the same time. The day after our symposium, the USDA issued a press release announcing that Aug 25-29 would be declared National Community Gardening Week.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today encouraged Americans to connect with the land, the food it grows and their local communities by proclaiming August 23-29, National Community Gardening Week. A community garden is an opportunity to educate everyone about from where food comes, whether that is a Farmers Market or a garden, and is important to increasing generations of healthy eaters. Community gardens can be anywhere whether it is in the country, a city or a suburb. It can be one community plot or can be many individual plots.
“Community gardens provide numerous benefits including opportunities for local food production, resource conservation, and neighborhood beautification,” said Vilsack. “But they also promote family and community interaction and enhance opportunities to eat healthy, nutritious foods. Each of these benefits is something we can and should strive for.”
I love this! Because the press release goes on to explain how “The People’s Garden,” at USDA headquarters has grown 170 lbs of food for the DC Central Kitchen. (This is a project incredibly similar to Lewis Ginter’s Community Kitchen Garden — except at having donated 4,516 lbs to FeedMore, we are slightly ahead!) The press release goes on to say that the USDA recently incorporated sustainable landscaping on the entire grounds.
And the good news keeps coming:
- Yesterday, I got this really neat suggestion via Twitter for Lewis Ginter to take a hint from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and hold a Greenest Block in Richmond contest.
- I read a great post on John Sarvay’s Buttermilk & Molasses about Reburbia — ideas to reclaim the suburbs with modern farms (More than 400 ideas are now online to view and vote on).
- I saw that the James River Green Building Council is hosting an Eco-Building Tour of Ace Recycling Center (on track to receive LEED Gold certification) Thursday, August 20, 2009, from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
- Henrico county board of supervisors amazingly voted to keep Varina rural in the 2026 Comprehensive Plan.
- Tricycle Gardens (Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s mentee) and the amazing Lisa Taranto, (who incidentally was a speaker at Green Tonic) was chosen as the recipient charity of the 2009 Twestival (Sept. 11th, 2009, tickets are now on sale)
- And last but not least, my friend John Sarvay told me today that his company, Floricane, along with Ansel Olsen and Peter Fraser hope to promote a local version of Park(ing) Day. Park(ing) day is brilliant idea where one takes a regular metered parking spot in the city and pays the meter for the day — then the fun begins — each participant creates a “park” of their liking in the spot for all to enjoy. Sarvay dreams big, and in this case, he’s thinking Richmond can host up to 200 parks at metered spots across the city. Sarvay’s known for his rock-solid facilitating skills and for helping people figure out what they want and getting them there, he will do no less in this case, and I’m sure the resulting Park(ing) will be incredibly inspiring.
We may never know if any of these events had anything to do with our urban gardening symposium at Lewis Ginter, but one thing is for sure, alot of us came away from Green Tonic inspired. In the next few weeks, we’ll have podcasts of the speakers from the symposium so if you missed Green Tonic, you can still be inspired too.
Just as an example, until last week, I had never heard of Biophilic Urban Design — planning for nature friendly communities. But now, I’m a convert. Timothy Beatley, Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at UVA told us about how a building design in Australia incorporating nature (ie fresh air, lots of light, and trees) actually increased the productivity of workers by 10 percent. And added expense of the building was easily paid for in the increased productivity of the employees. Until last week, I had no idea you could transform a city by cleaning it up and planting green things. Or even that one city could ever plant a million trees in a lifetime. But these things are happening, and soon, they’ll happen in Richmond too.