Tukee Talk Leah Derewicz

As I drive around the Valley, I always notice the open land and most of the time it is zoned for commercial use or housing and quite honestly, this makes me a little angry. Do we really NEED another strip mall? Another apartment complex? More houses? I find it interesting that developers feel the NEED to continue to build more buildings, but yet there are “For Lease” signs everywhere, businesses, apartments and homes. Am I the only one who has wondered, “Why do we need more buildings?” I doubt it. I believe we need community gardens.

Now, let me give you a little background information about me. I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota. My mother had a large garden from which we ate fresh vegetables throughout the entire summer. She also canned and froze vegetables from the garden for us to eat throughout the winter months. My grandmothers and great grandmother also had large gardens with fresh strawberries, raspberries, plums, apples, rhubarb, and more. Anyone who has raised their own produce understands that fruits and vegetables taste the absolute best when picked and placed on the table within the same day — delicious. I spent many hours weeding in the garden, picking peas; strawberries; sweet corn, beans and more. As much as I complained about it as a kid, (which I did), I would love to have that big garden back.

I now have a small garden in my backyard to raise tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, which I love, my boys help plant it and watch it grow. I really enjoy my small garden; it gives me much needed relaxation and quiet time.

Over the last few years and the down economy, people have tried to live their lives simpler. I’ve seen many websites helping people clip more coupons; learn how to make their own cleaners, laundry detergents, soaps, etc., just to save money. This leads me back to the community gardens, I believe NOW is the time to build them.

Proverb: “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, if you teach him how to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” If the community gardens are built and people are taught how to plant and raise a garden, they will be able to feed themselves for a lifetime.

European community gardens: I have traveled in Europe and lived in Warsaw, Poland. I’ve seen many European community gardens and I love them. European community gardens (allotment gardens) started over 200 years ago to help combat hunger. The community gardens of today are like a weekend retreat, people will spend at least one day of the weekend working in their garden. The community gardens range from 200 to 400 square meters and can be divided into smaller plots. The plots are rented or purchased, the ground is then tilled and prepared for planting, and most people will also build a gardening shed to fill with tools. The European gardens are planted with flowers and vegetables and are beautiful. Quite a few of the gardens have been passed on from generation to generation.

I believe this would be a wonderful opportunity for a land owner to create this European-style community garden. In a time when people are so stressed out, digging in the dirt and planting a garden might just be what a person needs to relax. There are gardening classes available through the Maricopa County Extension office as well as local nurseries for people to learn how and what to plant in our low desert. This could be a wonderful opportunity for churches, youth groups and nonprofits to rent a garden to raise vegetables for people in need of food.

I hope I have sparked your interest and you share my vision, would you like to see and participate in a community garden?

Leah Derewicz is a 15-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident. Reach her at mom@hanginwithmyboyz.me.

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