We joined with neighbors, refugees and community groups developing the Tapestry Community Garden on Isabella Street, on Syracuse’s north side. Families of new Americans claim plots each May and fill them with plants and seeds. Vegetables, herbs, and blossoms flourish in the raised beds.
The Tapestry Garden on Isabella Street is one of many urban community gardens started by Syracuse Grows so that city dwellers with little access to fresh vegetables will be able to grow their own. Syracuse Grows, in their quest for volunteers to help develop a community garden for refugees resettled on Syracuse’s north side, approached WTB for assistance. At the time, both of the local agencies resettling refugees had offices nearby. Along with Syracuse Grows, we worked with people from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, Northside Collaboratory, City of Syracuse, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Edible Gardening, and Habitat Gardening with the hope that new Americans living in the neighborhood would socialize with each other and improve their English language skills in conversing with neighbors as they come together to garden.
The present garden used to be a two-house lot, and much work had to be done, from soil testing to building raised beds. This was accomplished with the help of students who designed the beds and built them, generous donations of material and heavy equipment, and local farmers who donated plants. Beth Killian and her family led the team that built 15 raised beds. The Syracuse Fire Department helps fill rain barrels to facilitate watering the vegetables.
Beginning with the creation of the garden in 2009, new Americans have enthusiastically joined in building and maintaining the beds, preparing the soil each spring, and planting and caring for the gardens. Sometimes we learn as much from the new Americans as they do from us, as they educate us about “weeds” that they recognize as edible.
Challenges have arisen over the years, including lack of a common language, how to allocate plots, and produce being stolen. These issues were addressed by fencing in and locking the garden, and the garden has been maintained by students from several countries in an English class, who raise produce for their families, guided by their volunteer teacher, who is an avid gardener. We continue to participate in spring clean-up and planting days.
The Tapestry Garden is the fruit of local organizations collaborating in a community-building effort. For background information on food justice advocacy and community gardens in Syracuse, click here.