Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Alices Garden

The two acre site was originally occupied housing and then demoed and was planned to be set up as a highway. These plans feel through however and the land was left vacant. The project was conceived six years ago and the developers of Alice’s Garden see this as a landscape of healing. First through reclaiming land that was left vacant, second by providing neighbors a place to gather, third by providing a space for community organizations to host their programs, and finally through education on food quality and nutrition. By not limiting the space to a single use the site has been embraced by city officials and the community.
The labyrinth
Some of the programs that are organized in Alice’s Garden are yoga, a learning labyrinth, lessons on composting and where food comes from, and a recently tilled is a mock slave’s garden. A few of the plots are dedicated to local businesses and two plots are dedicated to selling vegetables to corner stores.
The idea behind the corner store plots is that the food grown here is sold in the corner stores. The area is considered a food desert and although the Fond Du Lac Food Market is right around the corner, there was interest from local businesses and neighbors to see healthy food be sold in the community corner shops. One interesting and unexpected outcome was that one store placed the food in the front display while the other decided to place the crop near the back with the rest of the food items. What came out of this was that the store with the produce in the front sold out right away while the store with produce in the back did not sell any. One other lesson that came out of this was that some of the customers hesitated to buy certain produce that they weren’t familiar with such as tomatillos. One component that will be added on to the display next year are index cards describing the flavor and how best to prepare the food. Also on display were pesto’s and salsa’s that the garden produces themselves in hopes of achieving self sufficiency.
This site is adjacent to a school that at one time closed down but has since re-opened. The school is planning a redesign of the play yard that is currently an asphalt blacktop. The redesign is hoping to add some tree canopy, outdoor classrooms, and a more formal way of entering the Alice Garden. Already the school and garden have collaborated by organizing lessons held out in the garden.
One of the three tool sheds 
There was one thing that took me by surprise as I entered the site were the sheer amount of amenities inside of the site. An arbor, barbecue pits, benches, brightly colored garbage cans, picnic tables and a trellis. These are features that are not normally found in community gardens. As I found out later the trellis was reclaimed from a restaurant. The site also hosted three tool sheds so residents would not have to bring there own tools. I am not knocking these amenities it really added a nice touch and shows that if community gardens were given any consideration and not done on such a shoe string the visually impact it can have. They are hoping, soon, to allocate funding for a bee keeping permit which Milwaukee recently okayed for residents of the city to keep on their property.
More information on Alice's Garden can be found here