Colleen Conley’s backyard vegetable garden makes her the envy of her Northwest 63rd Street neighbors.
The collard greens, bell peppers and basil sprouting in her 4-by-8 foot plot just plain make her proud and she shares her crop with anyone who asks.
“I love my garden! After seeing mine, all my neighbors want one,” said Conley, 55. “They’re always coming over to take a look at it and admire my collard greens.”
Very soon, some of Conley’s neighbors will have their own gardens, with the help of Urban Oasis Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people in low-income communities get access to fresh produce.
Conley’s garden, planted about five weeks ago, is the 31st in Liberty City planted by Urban Oasis volunteers who provide them at no cost for all who ask. Six more are in the works for the next several months, all created with donated materials, seeds and seedlings.
“People see their friends’ or neighbors’ garden and they like it so they want one too,” said Art Friedrich, who co-founded the Urban Oasis Project which has been planting gardens in Liberty City since September 2009. “People can pick out what vegetables they want to grow. It can range from tomatoes, onions, mustards, peppers, basil and collards to jalapenos or thyme.”
Constructing the gardens takes a couple of hours and at least three volunteers.
“Some days we gather a group of about 12 people,” Friedrich said. “We plant several gardens that day and split people into crews. One is the dirt crew, another the cinder block crew and another the planting crew.”
Friedrich occasionally checks in on the freshly-minted farmers to see how their gardens grow and provide seeds or plants to those who want them.
Anita McGee, 69, also has an Urban Oasis garden in her backyard.
“It’s been about two or three times that I’ve [eaten] the collard greens and mustards,” she said. “And now they’re coming back again. It’s beautiful.”
Passion Clervil, who lives across the street from McGee and admires her collard greens, wants to be next in line for her own vegetable patch.
“I want my own collards!” she said.
For more information on the Urban Oasis garden project, call Friedrich, 786-427-4698, e-mail the email@example.com or visit www.urbanoasisproject.com.
Information is also available from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays at the Liberty City Farmers Market at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave., at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (Northwest 62nd Street).
Daisy Calavia-Lopez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.