Building Community in the Garden

This weekend marks the second community garden symposium, hosted by Gardening for Good.  On Saturday, Jan. 18, over 100 new, aspiring and experienced gardeners from across the Upstate region will come together at Roper Mountain Science Center for a full day of dynamic speakers and local vendors to help them become successful in the community garden setting.  For those new to gardening, Master Gardeners will present basic tips and insider secrets for getting your “green thumb.”  For those who enjoy the end product of gardening (fresh produce!), local chefs and dietitians will present on how to build a seasonal, healthful menu.  For those looking to start or join a community garden, there are panel discussions with experienced community gardens equipped to answer all of your questions.  No matter your interest or experience, there is something for you to enjoy at the Community Garden Symposium (including lunch catered by the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery). 

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The goal of the Community Garden Symposium is to equip community gardeners across the Upstate with the tools and knowledge necessary to garden successfully and sustainably in their respective communities.  Already, the community garden movement has expanded rapidly throughout the Upstate and continues to grow everyday.  It is our hope to support this movement by providing community gardeners with the opportunity to hear from keynote speakers, attend workshops, information sessions, panel discussions, and visit vendors to help them become equipped for future gardening ventures.  For the full agenda visit HERE.  And to register visit HERE.

Gardening for Good, a program of Greenville Forward, is a network of local community gardens that builds upon the energy of the community garden movement, coordinates neighborhood redevelopment efforts, improves the health of residents and neighborhoods, and transforms Greenville through gardening.

Starting the New Year with Inclusion

For many people the new year, means setting resolutions. I have my own list and it includes the usual cliche goals. But this year among the need to exercise more and limit my carb consumption, I’m also adding a goal to live more inclusively.

You see, every quarter, Greenville Forward focuses on a different Vision. We have seven – Learning, Creative, Innovative, Connected, Healthy, Green and Inclusive – and they each describe what kind of community we want Greenville to be. In January, we began the Inclusive Quarter and have a variety of programming planned around what Greenville can do to be a more accepting and diverse community. During this quarter, we’ll cover inclusion of race, sexual orientation, religion and economic status. We hope you’ll join us for some of the conversations and events we’ll be hosting because in order to be inclusive, we’ll need as many perspectives and voices present.

But back to those resolutions. Greenville Forward’s Vision for this quarter, got me thinking about how can we lead a life that’s more inclusive and create a more Inclusive Greenville. For me, it will mean more conversations this year with people who, not only have a different background or come from a different culture, but also people who have different perspectives and opinions. My resolution is to spend less time trying to convince people to think like me and spend more time listening to their story and appreciating their experiences. I‘m excited to do this as a member of the 2014 spring class of the Diversity Leadership Institute, at our monthly Momentums, and during Upstate International Month, but I’m also excited about trying to be more inclusive on a daily basis. I I’d love to hear more about what “living more inclusively” means to you and what you think Greenville can do to be more inclusive. Leave a comment below or join us at our events this quarter. I look forward to starting a conversation with you.

Progression: Tobi Kinsell

Last year, Greenville Forward started a new series called Progression. We really like to start conversations at this organization, so we thought that we could begin a few of them by inviting community experts and leaders to share more about the cool things their working on and give Greenvillians an opportunity “to learn, engage, and discuss topics that help shape our community.”

Because our focus area for this quarter was Education, we invited Tobi Kinsell, director of Furman’s Bridges to the Brighter program to share more about Bridges and the state of education in Greenville County. It was a great presentation about a dynamic program. Tobi introduced us to Bridges, a program that includes a 4-week summer program, Saturday College and help and mentoring with the college application process for Greenville County high school students whose potential outdistances their circumstances. We compiled some of Tobi’s quotes below and included a list of the challenges she sees for student success in Greenville County.

Tobi Kinsell

On the Bridges Comprehensive program:

“We want to address their social,emotional and mental health so that they can become healthy people and healthy adults.”

On creating individual relationships with the students in the program:
“In order to move someone forward, you have to know them as an individual. Visits to their home, taking them to the SATs; that’s not written in the mission. It’s not written in my job description but you just got to do what you got to do.”

On the importance of Grit:
“If you’re growing up in that circumstance its difficult to see what’s beyond what’s in front of you. We have to build the resiliency and coping mechanisms to go back to that environment and keep moving forward.”

On the College Application:
“The process to apply to college is very confusing. If you don’t know how to navigate that system you just don’t. There are small barriers that keeps students from being the best they can be and ultimately being productive citizens”

Challenges As I See Them:

  • Academic Preparation – ACT, SAT, college readiness
  • The small barriers
  • College Admissions. Financial Aid and Enrollment
  • Many negative voices
  • College enrollment is not the finish line
  • Need for more post-secondary options and access to the options.
  • A college degree does not guarantee that someone moves out of poverty.

Read more about Bridges on their website. And join us for our next Progression series at Coffee Underground on March 12th!

Heroes Next Door 2013: William O’Neil

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Thanks to William O’Neil, an important part of Greenville’s history is being preserved and noticed.  O’Neil, a retired National Park Service employee whose last assignment was at the  Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, has served on the Board for the Friends of Richland Cemetery for many years, including terms as the Chairman of the Board and chair of the Improvement Committee.

Richland Cemetery and was the first municipal African-American cemetery in the City of Greenville. It is the final resting place for some of the most influential black citizens of Greenville. It is also the final resting place of several of O’ Neil’s family members. Personal ties to the cemetery, along with O’Neil’s passion for preservation, have led to O’Neil’s commitment to Richland. O’Neil has been a prominent leader behind the development of a conservation plan for Richland Cemetery, completed by the Chicora Foundation in 2011; the preservation of the simple but historic gateway on Hill St.; the funding for the first phase of grave marker conservation and the reconstruction of the Hilly St. edge to protect historic graves from storm water impact. 

O’Neil was a leader in convincing the Greenville City Council to direct a small percentage of revenue generated from a cell phone tower located on city property adjacent to the cemetery to the Friends of Richland Cemetery so the Friends could contract for stone conservation work. O’Neil worked tirelessly to preserve an important cultural landscape and, has been the “squeaky wheel” who gets things done by working closely and building collaborative relationships with other board members and city staff to plan and fund much needed conservation work. 

Nominator City of Greenville Parks and Recreation director and nominator, Dana Souza says, “He is a champion for historic preservation; a champion for preserving Greenville’s nationally registered historic African-American Cemetery and is one of Greenville’s true unsung hero and, Heroes Next Door.”

Heroes Next Door 2013: Genaro Marin

On November 8, Greenville Forward will honor Horace Mays, Genaro Marin and William O’Neil with the Heroes Next Door award and Maya Simmons with the Generation Forward award. These individuals have been chosen because of their selfless dedication to improving our community. Over the next couple of days, we’ll be sharing more about the winners on our blog. To hear more about their stories and celebrate their work, join us at the Heroes Next Door Awards Breakfast on Friday at Zen in downtown Greenville. Tickets can be purchased here. 

Genaro Marin

Russell Memorial Presbyterian Church

Genaro Marin speaks eloquently, but humbly, about how helping others became a part of his life. After meeting several people who were down-on-their-luck, the Panamanian-born retired psychologist, decided that helping people through their hard times, would be part of the next stage of his life. Since moving to Greenville, 9 years ago, Marin has continued that mission by dedicating his time to help Hispanic immigrants find much-needed resources.

During his time in Greenville, Marin’s work has touched families living throughout Greenville County. Marin helped establish two outreach programs for families, Café Cultura at the Center for Community Services in Simpsonville and a Latino Ministry at Russell Memorial Presbyterian Church in Berea. Marin ensured that the programs featured educational opportunities to better acclimate immigrants to life in Greenville and the United States. Marin continues to dedicate his time to helping families and volunteers at community events, as well as a volunteering with the Red Cross Hispanic Outreach program.

Nominator Joana Hernandez said in her nomination, “I can think of no one that deserves this recognition more than Genaro Marin. He is a dedicated servant to the community. Genaro’s attitude is that everyone, pulling together, can make the Greenville a better place.”  It’s that attitude that has helped Marin make community connections and create more opportunities for the people he serves and it is that attitude that Greenville Forward will honor on Nov. 8th with the Heroes Next Door Award.

Heroes Next Door 2013: Horace Mays

On November 8, Greenville Forward will honor Horace Mays, Genaro Marin and William O’Neil with the Heroes Next Door award and Maya Simmons with the Generation Forward award. These individuals have been chosen because of their selfless dedication to improving our community. Over the next couple of days, we’ll be sharing more about the winners on our blog. To hear more about their stories and celebrate their work, join us at the Heroes Next Door Awards Breakfast on Friday at Zen in downtown Greenville. Tickets can be purchased here. 

Horace Mays

picture provided by Suzanne Newton

Horace Mays is the reason the community garden movement is thriving in Greenville. He’s not an organizer or a funder, he’s a volunteer and the champion behind the St. Anthony of Padua’s school and church garden. He gathers workers for the garden, sometimes even recruiting Gower Street neighbors right off the street, and helps educate students on where their food comes from. Mays, an 88-year-old retired Navy chef and Pratt Whitney employee, is known as the “Garden’s Godfather” and his hard work shows in the beautiful peppers and heads of broccoli that can be found growing at St. Anthony’s.

We met Mays on a cold morning in the garden to record a video for the Heroes Next Door event, and he proudly took us on a tour of his garden. It was impressive, but more impressive than the great-looking produce, was Mays’ welcoming spirit. He emphasized that the produce in the garden was available to anyone who wanted to come pick it, and that his fenceless garden was there to feed the community. And it does. The garden’s produce supplements the church’s food pantry and community members come pick okra, collards and other beautiful produce.

But while Mays is passionate about the garden, he is more than just a grower. As nominator Suzanne Newton said, “At 88, Greenville native Mr. Horace Mays has more energy and resolve than most people half his age.” Mays is also a volunteer caretaker for the grounds at the Greenville Free Medical Clinic, involved with other volunteer organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, and he uses his chef expertise to teach cooking classes at St. Anthony’s.

In her nomination Newton, summed up best why we’ll be honoring Mays on Nov. 8th. She said, “This man is the soul of Christian kindness, as well as a great mentor and example of truly living well in one’s later years.”

Thoughts from the Intern: Bridging the GAP

More so than any other week thus far, this past week has literally flown by. From area garden visits and my garden clubs (currently working with over 200 kids!) to nearly throwing away our first Swamp Rabbit Teaching Garden harvest (intern moment), I have had a fast-paced and full week indeed!

This week was especially interesting because, on Thursday, I was able to attend a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) information class. The GAP Audit Verification Program is a voluntary program to demonstrate the participating agricultural entity has adhered to the FDA’s food safety standards. While the program is voluntary, it is necessary for farms to be GAP certified if they wish to sell to school systems larger food companies, such as Wal-Mart.

We learned all about the GAP audit process in the morning and, later that afternoon, we headed out to Bio-Way Farms to participate in a practice audit. I thought the class was truly fascinating! However, I was a little disillusioned afterwards. It seems like GAP is nearly impossible to achieve if one wants to run a sustainable farm. GAP certifiers discourage the re-use of picking baskets, compost tea, and animal-based pest prevention.

This is hard information to process, especially after being exposed to so many beautiful, sustainable, and plentiful gardens all throughout Greenville County this summer while working with Gardening for Good. The food these gardens produce cannot be sold to the greater public because they are not GAP certified. It makes me a little disheartened to know that the heirloom white cucumbers currently growing in our own Swamp Rabbit Teaching Garden can’t be enjoyed by more people, unless we were to have a GAP audit on that crop.

I have always been interested in agriculture administration at the federal level…(or rather, often angered by it). I do feel like I understand the relationship between farms and the USDA even better now that I have had an in depth look at one of the USDA’s regulation programs. Even better, during the GAP class were provided with a delicious lunch made with local ingredients – it remains unclear if these ingredients were GAP certified, but they tasted great to me!