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Community Gardening

Victory Gardens For All

November 29th was a beautiful late fall day in Eugene.  Blue sky stretched from Butte to Butte and the city of Eugene shined like an old barn that, after being hidden by fog for weeks, is suddenly exposed to brilliant light and sunny skies.  Looking for adventure, I found my way to the Fairgrounds in Jefferson Westside.  Following the sounds of drums, flutes, and Celtic violin I happened upon Eugene's Holiday Market- a tangle of shops selling woodwork, ceramics, tie dye, hemp clothes, pad thai; as well as the farmer's market where I listened to mycological tales and ate samples of fresh chevre.  The path out of the Market lead me to Monroe and then to Blair street in the Whiteaker neighborhood.  At the Whiteaker Station I met Charlotte Anthony, founder of the popular community garden phenomenon, Victory Gardens For All.  Anthony, like many I have met, values community, living with the landscape, and sustainable agriculture, but something makes her outstanding. She is willing to work and get her hands dirty doing it.

Sitting in the sunlight out behind the Whiteaker Station, Charlotte, a woman who composes herself to speak but often lets out a big smile and laugh, began to explain the world of perma-culture. "Perma-culture can mean permanent culture or permanent agriculture, definitions vary," she told me.  In a perma-culture, the whole community of organisms is involved in the process of living.  "Stacking functions' is one of my favorite terms." She went on, "Many things coalesce, energy from the water, water from the water... compost in a greenhouse heats the greenhouse.  Making the systems inter-digitate, we're part of it, it all works together, like a house facing south for solar [heat]."  Many groups discuss these ideas and ideals but don't take the necessary steps to make their own local system operational.  Charlotte Anthony started Victory Gardens For All so that people can actually make a little bit of these ideas into a reality.

"A lot people were buying houses in Eugene so they could garden, and then every year, instead of gardening, they bought a gardening book."  For $50 Anthony and her team installs a fully operational garden, complete with healthy seedlings.  The catch is that the homeowner agrees to help with 3 more gardens, and so becomes part of the gardening team.  Victory Gardens for All has installed 350 gardens in Eugene and the group is currently looking into building large scale gardens with the Youth Eatin' Project and Food Security as well, other food oriented community groups in Eugene.

Victory Gardens For All applies the ideals of perma-culture to real life situations where residents and neighborhoods can benefit.  The mission is to build a "neighborhood synergy of resources.  [For example,] using algae and fish ponds to generate heat and electricity.  Take everything- we can do it at a local level."  She explained how we can harvest and store fruit from the trees in town instead of just letting it rot.  Laughing she said, "No Child Left Inside, everyone gets out and enjoys and encounters nature... [we're usually] trying to fill our needs by buying, rather than being with nature, a world we can participate in."  Victory Gardens For All provides people with a little piece of that participatory world.

Charlotte Anthony hopes to be "inspiring people by trying to show how food is grown."  Seeing space come alive as a garden is inspiring -neighbors big and small, bacterial, mineral, vegetable, and human, become recognized as members of a community, each with their own important part to play.