Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Tales From The Field II

Stories By GreenThumb Gardeners


photo by Katherine McGlynn

Operation Green Thumb
49 Chambers Street Suite 1020
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-8059

If you had seen that trash filled lot, you'd've said it would take a miracle to make a garden. In time and with much hard work we accomplished the impossible. Now we have something beautiful to look at ... flowers, fruits and vegetables for the community.

When people walk by, they compliment the garden. One surprised person said, "It's magic." So we called the garden The Magic Garden. But in reality, the magic is within us.

Lydia Roman
The Magic Garden
East Harlem, Manhattan

When we first started cleaning out our lot, the morning dew wet my hands and legs. I sat down on a rock and seeing that the dew still covered the weeds around me, I started remembering my childhood in Puerto Rico. I used to follow my mother into her vegetable garden where she grew yautia. It had round leaves which, in the mornings, were covered with dew. To me, it looked like pearls. I stared at it a long time and then I drank those water drops from the leaves of the yautia plant.

My mother used to help the poor people, giving them fruits and vegetables she grew to eat. Reminiscing of my childhood in Puerto Rico, I wanted to do as my mother did and help needy people. Soon my garden started to look like my mother's garden. I planted recao seeds which is used to flavor many Spanish foods. In 1981, many Spanish speaking people did not know that you could grow recao in New York. Now many Spanish ladies plant their own recao.

Now this garden is my pride and part of the community where I live. It is also a part of the school across the street, CES 73. The children learn to plant fruits and vegetables. They play a great role in helping in the garden.

Once I have departed from this earth to another, may this garden into which I have put so much work and pride keep going for the community and for other children to come.

Antonia Diaz
1001 Anderson Avenue Garden
Highbridge, Bronx

My husband is a busy man with a no-nonsense high stress job. Just about every day, he drinks quarts of coffee, smokes packs of unfiltered Camels and yells until he's hoarse. He's overweight and has mild diabetes as well as a "touchy" stomach.

Yet, on his days off, he drags out his tools and sweats and swears under the hot sun working with neighbors in the garden. Incredibly though, his blood sugar and blood pressure drop to acceptable levels. He smokes less. No doubt he's too busy with his hands. In general, he seems calmer and happier.

I guess hard work is like hard sex. It leaves you sweaty, exhausted and completely satisfied with your accomplishments. And it's good for you, too.

Johanna Sherman
The Bayview Gardens
Coney Island, Brooklyn

Before starting our garden I longed for a place of my own to grow flowers and have a vegetable garden like my grandfather had when I was a little girl.

My grandfather came from Italy. We enjoyed homegrown vegetables all the time. Grandma made her own spaghetti sauce from the garden's tomatoes, basil and peppers. Grandpa even made his own wine from the grapes that he grew. We also loved his corn, garbanzo beans and, especially, his figs.

Planting flowers around the street trees in front of our building wasn't enough. I started reading up on gardening and was determined to have a garden some day, some how, some way. Now we have our community garden ... a wonderful place where we can go and enjoy being outdoors with our family and friends, friends that only a short time ago were neighbors whom we would just see in passing.

The garden has brought us all close together.

Clair Blum Project
Eden Rego Park,

I like going to the garden early on Sunday mornings. I slap on my headphones, listen to Mozart and putter. After a while, I take a breather and sit in the gazebo, just watching the flowers grow.

One Sunday, there I was with muddy knees and bits of weed in my hair when a very proper lady wearing little white gloves passed by. I must have startled her when she spotted me. Quite loudly, she commented about my sitting around instead of going to church.

I didn't say a word. How could I explain that I was already there?

Johanna Sherman
The Bayview Gardens Coney Island,

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Photographs of Community Gardening in New York

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Revised October 17, 1996

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture