Who could deny that a 4-year-old girl was just doing what she could to help her mother, who has severe disabilities, and herself survive when she started a vegetable garden behind their unit in a subsidized housing complex? Young Rosie and her mother Mary (not their actual names, to protect their privacy), have only a $628 disability payment to live on a month, not enough to subsist on even in the unspecified rural South Dakota area they live in.
Improbably, a few months after Rosie started her garden, the property management company running the housing complex said the garden had to be removed in order to carry out landscaping work. The authority of no one less than the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development was cited and the management company subsequently moved Rosie’s garden to an area where it was bound to falter.
As The Healthy Home Economist spread the word about the sad fate of Rosie’s garden, those of us — including many Care2 members — who care about gardening, love knowing that a younger generation is learning how to garden and wonder how anyone thinks two people can survive on Mary’s monthly disability payments alone – took action and let it be known that Rosie’s and Mary’s garden must be saved.
The outrage has had good results. As Matt Hickman wrote on Mother Nature Network, the management company has agreed to build a new raised bed vegetable garden for Rosie and her mom and for other residents of the housing complex next spring.
It still remains to be seen if the management company will stick to its word. Let’s hope those running the company recall the tremendous show of support when Rosie’s and Mary’s garden was moved and not allowed to flourish. There have just been too many stories about urban gardeners of all ages being hounded, if not threatened with fines or worse, about their attempts to grow their own food.
Hickman also notes that the U.S.D.A. itself does not have an explicit policy for or against gardens in subsidized housing buildings and that the agency, while not as responsive about Rosie’s and Mary’s garden as it could have been, is not “anti-garden.”
Beyond a straightforward affirmation about gardens and the benefits of growing your own food, a takeaway lesson from the case of Rosie’s vegetables garden lies in how the management company has responded. Again, the company has (as far as we know) agreed to provide raised vegetable beds both for Rosie and her mother and for other tenants of the housing complex. That is, the result of the brouhaha about a 4-year-old’s garden is that more people will have the chance to garden and to enjoy the fruits, or rather the vegetables, of their labor.
A huge thank you to Care2 members for helping to save Rosie’s and Mary’s garden!
Photo from Thinkstock