Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Reading: 'Seedfolks'

"All his life in Vietnam my father had been a farmer. Here our apartment house had no yard. But in that vacant lot he would see me. He would watch my beans break ground and spread, and would notice with pleasure their pods growing plump. He would see my patience and my hard work. I would show him that I could raise plants, as he had. I would show him that I was his daughter.

My class had sprouted lima beans in paper cups the year before. I now placed a bean in each of the holes. I covered them up, pressing the soil down firmly with my fingertips. I opened my thermos and watered them all. And I vowed to myself that those beans would thrive." (from Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman)

My mother recently suggested I read the book Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman, and I am glad I did. Though the book is written for a young audience, ages nine to 12, Seedfolks is an inspiration for gardeners of all ages.

Set in an urban apartment building in Cleveland, Seedfolks tells the story of a fledgeling community garden started by a nine-year-old immigrant girl in a garbage- and rat-infested vacant lot. Over the course of one spring, more and more residents of the apartment building join the little girl in establishing the garden.

Narrated through the voices of 13 different characters -- who have different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and jobs -- Seedfolks shows how a community garden might affect the different residents of a community. A Haitian cab-driver dreams of selling the lettuce he can grow on their plot. A Guatemalan immigrant watches as a vegetable garden revitalizes his elderly father. A pregnant 16-year-old girl learns to raise plants -- and raises her spirits in the process. These are the kinds of stories that Seedfolks uses to illustrate the power of gardening in community.

As I finished Seedfolks, I couldn't help but wonder: How can we create more community gardening opportunities in our neighborhood?

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