by Madi Holtzman, TNFP Garden Coordinator
After a long winter of anticipation, the McGruder community gardeners (or Green Thumbers as they like to be called) came together on a recent Saturday for the garden’s official spring opening. There are 17 raised beds in the North Nashville garden and every single one has been claimed! In fact, we are considering building more beds to accommodate the high level of interest. The Green Thumbers are a wonderfully diverse group of people: multi-generation families with children of all ages, elderly couples who have lived in North Nashville for years, participants from the Hope for Health wellness program, and some people who came knowing no-one and left with new friends.
All community gardens allow people to grow their own food, but the level of community inherent to each garden can vary quite a bit. For some, the word “community” simply points to the fact that the garden is a shared space. But, in my opinion, the really special gardens have layers of community—a fabric of relationships among the gardeners that goes much deeper than simply growing vegetables in adjacent plots.
The most inspiring aspect of the Green Thumbers is the gracious, neighborly posture with which they approached the McGruder garden on day one. When I explained that everyone could paint a wood sign to mark their plots, there was a pause. Nobody wanted to be the first to run over and grab a paintbrush because nobody there was selfishly motivated. A few Green Thumbers specifically told me that they are growing for their neighbors; they will only eat the produce that nobody else wants. A few more Green Thumbers decided to share plots to save space for others who might want to join the garden. And Reverend John Beach, the elderly reverend who grew vegetables in every single bed last year before his neighbors were aware of the space, refused to take his own plot. He never believed that so many people would show up to garden at McGruder, and he now insists on sharing a bed with his wife to encourage the unexpected enthusiasm.
We look forward to supporting the Green Thumbers throughout the season with monthly educational workshops. You can teach people how to weed and seed and harvest, but creating a safe space for sharing food and relationships depends on the dispositions of the gardeners themselves. I am so grateful to work with this group of gracious, gentle people who are already transforming the McGruder garden into such a space.