CAFE partnered with the City of Indianapolis’ Grow-N-Indy Program and our partners in the Indy East Food Desert Coalition (IEFDC) to build a community garden at 4112 Brentwood, the Far Eastside Peace Garden. Brentwood is located in Town and Terrace in the area of 42nd and Post. This area has faced many challenges over the years including high crime, vacant houses, and devastation from the 2008 tornado. 4112 Brentwood is now an empty lot after the house that was once there was demolished after tornado damage.
On April 13th, CAFE began clearing and cleaning the site for the garden as part of the Far Eastside Great Indy Clean Up. Volunteers came out to pick up trash and clear fencing and brush. On Monday, the work began to make beds for the garden. Monday was a rough day. The day was a struggle to get help and get the job started. Several walked past the group that was working but never stopped. One individual, T, stopped by to ask what we were doing. When we explained the project, he said he did that kind of work but got paid to do it. He left and watched. By the end of the day, we loaded our supplies back on the bus with nothing done. I began to question if we could get this done and would it make a difference. If we did get it together, would it still be there after a week. Monday was a very rough day!
Tuesday was spent regrouping, reaching out to partners and friends in the community and coming up with a plan to get our garden done. So we were back early Wednesday morning. The day started well with volunteers, tools, and energy! By the time I arrived on site at 11:00 am, several beds were together and dirt had arrived. The first volunteer I saw was T. He was back and he was working. T explained that he had been released from prison just the week before. He lived in the community and he wanted to help. After speaking with T, CAFE staff quickly connected T to resources and scheduled an appointment to meet with a CAFE case manager to get an opportunity for a job with one of our partners. Today was starting out much better!
Several of the other volunteers were from the Far Eastside Development Group. A program in our community to help young men get their lives back together after incarceration or those breaking away from gang affiliation. One young man, B, was talking with CAFE staff about keeping the garden safe and making sure it wasn’t torn up. One staff explained that she would pray over the garden to keep it safe. The staff person started to leave to go back to CAFE. She was in her car when B ran over and said, “she can’t leave, she hasn’t prayed yet”. She got out of her car and she, B, and two others joined hands in a circle in the garden and prayed. Today was a better day!
We continued to work, making and placing beds and filling them with dirt. Four young people got off the bus after school. They came running over to the garden to see what we were doing. They said they were students at IPS 105. I explained to them about the project. One young man stuck out his hand and introduced himself. He shook my hand and said, “thank you for doing this garden for my community”. He asked if we could have carrots in the garden. I told him yes and about all the other fruits and vegetables we would have in the garden. He and his younger sister began to jump up and down. The little girl, who is a first grader, raised her hands over her head and shouted, “we are gonna eat healthy”! We talked more about the garden and they explained to me that they lived right down the street. They promised to come back to help plant and take care of the gardens and walked home. Today was a really great day!
The day was coming to an end and a storm was blowing in. A lot of work had been accomplished, 9 beds had been completed with some filled with dirt. The volunteers began to pack up the rest of the supplies to come back tomorrow to finish. I asked them to come together so I could share my interaction with the 105 students. B was moved by the story and said, “ I have goose bumps”. All the other volunteers felt the same. B went on to share that this was maybe the second time that he had participated in a project to help in his community and “it felt good”. He said, “I can’t wait to come back tomorrow”. He shared the pride he felt that he had a part in building this garden. Today was an awesome day!
Although the Far Eastside Peace Garden had a very shaky start, the seeds we are planting in our community are so much more than vegetables and flowers. Four amazing interactions I experienced today made the garden a success… even if we never harvest one crop.