Saturday, Aug. 29, Harlem’s community gardeners will invite the public to share in the 10th anniversary tour of Harlem’s miraculous, community-centered grassroots-developed green oases. Starting at 9 a.m. with a sumptuous breakfast at the J.D. Wilson Garden on 122nd Street and ending at 5 p.m. with a traditional Harlem cookout and celebration at the William A. Harris Garden, 153rd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, the tour will take in over 15 of Harlem’s amazing green gems.
This year, in addition to the bus transporting tour members, Philipp Rassman and Ellen Belcher of the Morris-Jumel Community Garden will lead bicyclists. Eren T Gibson, of the Truce/McCracken Garden, will head up folks who wish to hike the tour.
As one gardener put it, “These are more than just gardens, they are community institutions” offering educational programs, art, health and wellness, theater, music, storytelling, canning, fermentin, and much more. Some gardens share all the food grown with their community. Others host CSAs and farmers’ markets. Some gardeners have come up with unique ways to harness the sun’s power and produce in small spaces with vertical gardens and solar equipment. Economical and environmentally prudent water catchment systems abound. Many gardens now host bee hives, which not only produce honey but also help with badly needed pollination. Tourists will see lush gardens with verdant flora and fauna, gazebos, grape arbors heavy with fruit, established fruit trees, abundant herbs, vegetables, extensive composting systems and more.
Some gardens began over 25 to 30 years ago on what was then sun-parched and rubble-strewn abandoned city lots. Tourists will also visit new gardens where neighbors have more recently come together to excavate and reclaim unused, debris-strewn parcels of land.
Community gardeners have long been visionaries when it comes to community development and a healthy urban landscape. Harlem’s gardens exemplify that well. Moreover, gardens are much more than the healthy, oxygen-promoting ecosystems we all need to survive. Community gardens are oases of healing. They give individuals a sense of purpose and dignity. They strengthen communities. They help to decrease aggression and violence. They help to mitigate ADD, ADHD and many other emotional and learning “abilities.” Community gardens soften our harsh urban environment and decrease its toxic carbon footprint. As Haja Worley, the tour leader, said, “Community gardeners are guardians of the land.”
Attendees are encouraged to bicycle or walk the tour, but thanks to the New York City Parks Department, a bus will transport folks who cannot walk or use alternative transportation. Gardens included in the tour as of press time (note: the bus will not stop at all) are the JD Wilson Garden, the Chinchita’s Garden, the Electric Ladybug Garden, Our Little Green Acres, 5 Star Garden, Carrie McCracken/TRUCE Garden, the New 123rd Street Garden, Clayton Williams Garden, the PBC Wm. B. Washington Garden, Unity Garden-Park Association, the New 127th Street Miracle Garden, Mandela Park Garden, Harlem Rose Garden, the 132nd Street Garden, Margrichante Garden, Success Garden/Harlem Grown, the Morris-Jumel Community Garden, the Convent Avenue Garden and the Wm. A. Harris Garden.