Placemaking at Arroyo Food Co-op
At their August 4th Open House, we introduced “placemaking” with examples like still photos from the film The Social Life of Small Urban Places, based on the book by William H. Whyte, which describes the things that activate outdoor spaces, like the value of movable chairs, and the fact that people want to sit under trees. Other examples from Pasadena were shown, like an outdoor piano that anybody could play whenever they wanted, the fancy painted crosswalks in the Playhouse District, and the Learning Garden at Throop Church.
During the Open House, we gave out pens and paper with the prompts: “observe, plan, implement”, and asked them to go outside and make their own observations and think of things they would do if it was their yard to make it more welcoming. A lot of people participated. It was a placemaking activity that also activated the space!
Now we are trying to incorporate their ideas into the first stage of implementation. This is the first step of many. We will observe, plan and implement over and over.
· With full sun from 11:30 am until sunset everyday, we are going to be able to grow so many wonderful things, including fruit trees.
· There is 530 square feet of space on the west side of the store, and if you add the parkway there is a total of 1040 square feet of growing space. There is also a stone patio for tables and chairs. That’s where I usually sit, when I engage the neighbors or members of the co-op.
· The design was drawn up during the Open House placemaking. It includes a sunken pathway for water catchment, a spiral mound for planting, a raised bed, and fruit trees along the parkway.
· We will do permaculture gardening, which has worked so well at Throop. There will be sheet mulch with multiple layers of cardboard and mulch (sheet mulch acts like a sponge, retaining water) and we will plant into that. There will be mounds and valleys and other permaculture techniques used.
· We are planning on planting lettuces and arugula, spinach, rhubarb, bok choy, chard, artichokes, carrots, strawberries, eggplant, tomatillos, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, lemon thyme, and rosemary.
· We would prefer to plant 3 fruit trees along the parkway; however, the city does not allow any tree species other than the official street tree. (Activist opportunity here! Stay tuned…)
· Sharing: We are creating a “pay it forward” enterprise. Eventually anyone walking by can grab a tomato or a piece of rosemary. And anyone who walks by is a potential volunteer who might also help us plant and tend the garden.
· Teaching: There are people out there who don’t know much about gardening. We will be teaching by doing it and letting people help. Out on the street where everyone can see, we’ll be modeling gardening as a fun and useful hobby.
· Inspiring: To be surrounded by knowledgeable gardeners will be inspirational for members of the community. Gardening might seem foreign or intimidating at first to “newbies”, but then they’ll realize it’s not that hard and they hopefully will go home and start their own gardens!
· Empowering: Growing your own fruits and vegetables is like printing money. People will realize that they can grow their own food, save money and have more control over what they eat.
· Exercising: Building an active place will encourage people to walk, exercise, get out of their cars and put down their phones.
· Building Community: the idea of growing food out on the street where members of the community can pick it and take it home is a wonderful way to help build community. Because that person who harvests a tomato from a community garden is more likely to come back and “pay it forward”, to help grow something else for somebody else to eat.
We have a lot of work to do here and fun to have. We will be asking for volunteers to help with the installation soon.
Note: there’s still a few days left for input on the actual plan, so if you have suggestions, say a specific fruit or a vegetable that you would like to see growing outside the Arroyo Food Co-op, now is the time to mention it.
— Sylvia Holmes