The 63rd Street community garden’s kick-off took place Saturday afternoon at the 63rd Street mini-park, a small playground with slides and swings. The garden, enclosed by four fences and surrounded by homes, is filled with wooden planters to hold soil and plants.
When campus graduate student instructor Albie Miles from the department of environmental science, policy and management first started the food garden project about 10 years ago, they had a goal of providing each of the 25 community members with two servings per day to supplement groceries.
The project lasted for a year or two, until its space fell into disuse. The project kickoff signifies the continuation of its purpose as a food garden. Yet this time, it is run by neighbors, according to Berkeley resident Andrew Yeung.
Yeung, a campus alumnus who graduated in 2011, said the idea of restarting the space was inspired by mutual aid organizations that emerged from the pandemic.
“One of my early ideas was I want to see more green space,” Yeung said. “I want to see green space used to produce food.”
Yeung noted that few grocery stores are centered around South Berkeley. Behind the lack of food lies historical explanations and class disparities, he added.
The idea of restarting use of the space started among the neighbors between 2020 and 2021. The idea gained traction with the city, leading residents to reinstall fences around the space, clean out trash and remove grass.
At the community garden, some wood planters are already in use. Matt Woll, a neighbor from the garden’s nearby homes, shoveled soil into one planter as he explained its design.
The planter holds three long cylindrical nets, each filled with compressed plastic bottles connected with water pipes. Woll calls them cisterns — structures that provide plants with water.
Traditionally, cisterns are made with gravel. Woll uses “Plavel,” a design that uses repurposed plastic bottles rather than gravel to battle plastic waste and create more porosity, which keeps the ground saturated.
“It’s a 30% water saving, which is a lot,” Woll said. “Water someday is going to cost what it should. ”
Woll mentioned his recent interest in dye plants, which could potentially live in the planters. However, he also emphasized that food is the priority for the community.
Yeung envisions the future of the space as a center for community gathering.
“There’s a daycare that will bring a lot of the little ones to this park and they’ll pop in here, and they’ll help us pick up fava beans and just hang out in the space,” Yeung said. “So we’re hoping that this will be a welcoming space for young people too.”
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