Community Garden’s get support from the Dallas City Council

Post by Mariana Griggs, President of the Community Gardens of Oak Cliff


The Transportation and Economic Development committee of the Dallas City Council has some good ideas. After the initial briefing by staff their questions were clear and showed direct interest in the health of our community garden effort. The conclusion of the committee after the briefing was that staff should bring back a better plan to make it easier for community gardens to be formed.

During the briefing (In case you missed Jim Shutze’s live blog)
The committee first wanted to know where staff got some of the ideas in the briefing such as the $1,170 for permitting fees and the two harvest sales allowed for the year. Staff admitted that they used the city’s “garage sale model” and that it costs money to go through the permitting process, but they really don’t know how much (maybe $200-$300 to post an ad in the newspaper). The committee seemed to be working hard to avoid laughing at these admissions, gardeners in the audience were laughing. Garage sales and harvest sales are quite different. I don’t have to point out to you that the junk in my garage will not rot into a soupy mess (I don’t think so anyway), and that newspaper ads to the whole city about a garden seem like overkill (even to the committee).

In the next portion of the briefing Councilwoman Delia Jasso asked me to speak to the committee. I am not sure exactly what I said but it went something like this:
“A garden needs room to grow and will in turn grow a community around it, with or without formal agreements on plot rental. Fees and a permitting process will only stifle this type of effort. Growing food for yourself and your neighbors should be a right everywhere and staff should read some books on the subject.” I hope this is the message that I conveyed and I hope that it represents what Community Gardens of Oak Cliff is about. The committee then asked if anyone else would like to speak and Don Lambert spoke to the point of the permitting process too. He told the committee that it is unlikely that recent immigrants and low income people (who are often the ones in desperate need to grow their own food) will be able to navigate the permitting process. He also reiterated that growing your own food is a right.

The rest of the briefing had lots of commentary about how great community gardens are and the benefits of having one in any neighborhood. Councilwoman Davis even said she has a vacant lot in mind across the street from her house and she and her neighbors are planning a flower garden.Then a speaker from the Environmental Quality office gave support to the benefits of gardening on the environment and then the committee took a turn down a road that I think we need to explore:

Councilman Tennell Atkins wanted to know: “What happens when I give or sell a tomato to my neighbor and they get sick?” At this point I wish I could have spoken again because I heard Don Lambert behind me say “the food at the grocery store is what makes you sick”. I am not going to bash the grocery stores here but I will endorse the Organic Consumers Association and their efforts to educate the public on this very issue. The cases of food born illnesses from fresh produce have not come from home grown or organically grown vegetables.

Lastly, Councilwoman Angela Hunt questioned Option 1: to garden by right by asking what happens if someone not from a neighborhood comes in and starts a garden where the neighborhood does not want it. She spoke to the gardeners in the audience and talked about a simple permitting process similar to the notification for a conservation district in a neighborhood. Her concern was that neighbors should be involved. We all nodded over and over again as I thought, “what a good way to get the plots rented by the neighbors and also to get their contact information”.
I don’t know about you but I have no plans to go to a neighborhood and start something without neighbor support. We’ve got enough to do here in Oak Cliff where the interest keeps growing and so does the Romaine.

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