City SeedsI was reading this moving and cool article at the St. Louis Post Dispatch at stltoday.com. The gist of it is that people have been reclaiming empty lots in urban settings to help addicts and ex-convicts reclaim a sense of self- worth, vocation, and identity. The group who set this up is Gateway Greening, “nonprofit organization dedicated to community development through community gardening.”

Here’s a short vignette:

Based on the concept of therapeutic gardening and modeled on a program at Rikers Island jail in New York, Urban Seeds was launched three years ago by Gateway Greening, a group that oversees 170 community gardens throughout the city. The group paired with St. Patrick Center, whose clients — mentally ill, chemically dependent, homeless or all three — sign up to be farmers. They’re paid minimum wage to work the farm three days a week and commit to agriculture classes and counseling.

“We have long thought that digging in the soil and planting things might help people in early recovery,” explained Ann Rotermund, the senior director of mental health programs at the center. “Somebody that’s just sober and struggling to stay that way — these are the people we put on the farm.”

A few things strike me about this.

  1. I love how in Japan, you often see rice paddies and vegetable gardens next to homes and other buiildings in mid-sized cities. That was my experience in Hirakata, Osaka. I’d love to see more of this! I am toying with growing my own food in my back yard instead of always mowing grass and wasting time, fuel, and effort.
  2. We’ve become so far removed from the land, that new stewardship of the earth like this really is moving. Being tied to the land really can help us “grow” roots.
  3. Digging in the dirt is good for the soul, even if, like me, you’re not a green thumb. We are quickly coming full circle, returning to the land. It just is unsustainable to live a totally urban existence without any type of agriculture. Individuals can finally start thinking of being their own source of food, providing composting, and even electric power from waste heat. Pehaps the furusato will become where you truly live each and every day.