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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Me in Digital Print

Every so often I am interviewed about community gardening for written pieces that appear in print or digital media. Two such pieces appeared about 2 weeks ago and are worth a look and not just because you can read words of wisdom from yours truly. Another video interview is still being edited.

I was interviewed by Tali Woodward writing an article titled "Planting Seeds" for Sierra, the Sierra Club Magazine. Tali highlighted Brook Park, a community garden in the South Bronx where Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility ran a program called Into the Woods funded by a grant from Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors program. She also included a sidebar that gave some background about community gardens where she used a few of my quotes and other information gleaned from our interview.
The important point here is that community gardens have value that is hard to quantify. In this case as in so many others, Brook Park provides the venue and the support for a wonderful environmental education program. This type of service or value of community gardens is often overlooked by those deciding whether preserving a garden is more valuable than another use for the land.

The environmental blog Grist covers a plethora of environmental issues and Umbra Fisk has a regular column called Ask Umbra that answers questions from readers. This particular entry "Ask Umbra on Healthy soils for Urban and Suburban Farmers and Gardeners" focused on the safety of urban soils. The only tidbit from our 20 minute interview that she used was my suggestion to add compost to bind up the lead and other heavy metals that might be in the soil.

This does bring up a point about urban community gardening and even backyard gardening that it is very important to test your soil and to amend it if necessary. In drastic cases, a soil test that shows high levels of heavy metals or organic compounds (most often petrochemicals) may need re-mediation and vegetables grown in those soils should not be eaten. Such extreme cases are very rare and in fact I have not heard of a case in 24 years of urban gardening where lead poisoning or other poisonings from urban soil have occurred. Caution is still necessary for the safety of all concerned.

At issue here is that the recommendations by government agencies for safe levels of lead in soil mostly deal with lead in playgrounds where children will get lead on their hands and then put their hands in their mouths. Not so clear or well documented is eating produce grown in soil with high lead levels. This has been the case as long as I have been urban gardening. Still no good research. Once again use caution but this should not be a reason for not growing vegetables and fruit in urban gardens especially if the soil is tested. Most often new soil with low lead levels is brought into community gardens. Now - back to my original comment - adding compost helps alleviate the problem.

I was also interviewed on camera for Paper Tiger TV for a video on Public Spaces. The video is still being edited but should be available shortly. In my comments during filming I mentioned the Youth Market run by youth in the Learn It Grow It Eat It Program (LGE) of GrowNYC as a good example of productive use of public spaces. The film makers posted a short piece on their blog called "The Square" which highlights LGE.

Now I probably won't be interviewed for a year!

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