Community Harvest

When Marissa and Chris Carter relocated to Tulsa from Shawnee, they chose to settle Brady Heights because of the historic homes, the location of the neighborhood and the tight-knit community, fueled in large part, Marissa Carter said, by the neighborhood’s community garden.
In the summer of 2007, neighborhood residents Justin Pickard, Nathan Pickard, Jeremy Brennan and their families spearheaded an effort to plan a community garden in the plot of land formerly occupied by a burned-down home razed by the city.
A group of residents purchased the tax lien on the home and are in the process of gaining ownership of the land itself. In the meantime, they and their 23 raised-bed gardens, 16 of which are in use, are technically squatting – but using what was a community nuisance to strengthen the bonds of the neighborhood.
Every family in the neighborhood desiring to have a plot in the garden can have one, Marissa Carter, who’s the Brady Heights Neighborhood Association president until January, said. The plots are free to the families for the first year, and the association asks for a $10 annual fee for consecutive years to help pay the costs of maintaining the land and purchasing mulch, soil, etc.
“We have scholarships, though, provided by residents in the neighborhood, if the $10 is a problem,” said Carter.
In the Carter family plot, the young couple is growing strawberries, Brussels sprouts, oregano, basil, onion, tomatoes, peas, beans, peppers and squash.
Other families grow what they like to eat, and there is a community plot of herbs, as well as rows of strawberries at the front of the land, from which everyone can partake.
Lining the perimeter of the garden are 13 fruit trees, recently purchased at wholesale cost through a partnership of Rita Scott, president of Sustainable Green Country. The trees were planted in April their fruit will be available to the entire community.
Aside from rules imposed on them by city zoning codes (i.e. no “hard gardening” after dusk and no activity after 11 p.m.), neighborhood gardeners are pretty lax about their vegetable yard.
“We share our abundance,” said Carter. “And we sometimes pick from each other’s beds. If you see someone who’s strawberries haven’t been picked for a while, pick a couple of strawberries.”
Neighbors usually begin to gather in the early evening to tend to their gardens, said Carter, spending 30 to 45 minutes each day checking in with their plants and their neighbors’ lives. She said the garden has had the effect of “unifying” the neighborhood.
“We use gardening as a way to get to know everyone. People who wouldn’t normally meet, from the very south end of Denver to the north end of Cheyenne, come together here,” said Carter.
Neighbors have organized more formal meetings, too, like April’s plant swap and barbeque. Brennan organizes neighborhood-wide garden maintenance days about once a month, and the neighborhood association has planned a block party for July.

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