The Inadvertent Gardener Rotating Header Image

Victory! Or, I found a garden (for the time being)

When I looked for apartments near my work in Oakland, I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I knew I had some very simple, non-negotiable criteria: I wanted to be able to walk to and from work. I wanted a decent kitchen. I wanted something safe, and I wanted to try to avoid paying my entire annual salary in rent.

Slow Food Nation's Victory Garden sits in the shadow of City Hall.

Slow Food Nation's Victory Garden sits in the shadow of City Hall.

It might come as a surprise, based on the name of this blog, that having some space to garden or plant was not on that non-negotiable list. But I had this feeling that, somehow, I’d figure out a way to get my hands in the dirt, even if that way was unconventional.

Sure enough, a way presented itself. Slow Food Nation is bringing its foodie parade to town over Labor Day Weekend, and one aspect of the conference/festival /concert/celebrity-chef-sighting-opportunity is the Victory Garden planted in front of San Francisco’s City Hall.

Patterned after the Victory Gardens that fed the nation during World War II, the main garden at Civic Center is slated to provide fresh vegetables a few weeks after the Slow Food Nation gathering to those with limited access to produce in San Francisco.

The garden’s been attracting a little bit of nay-saying, particularly over at Garden Rant and the San Francisco Bay Guardian Politics blog. It’s temporary, they say. It’s expensive and a waste of resources. It’s a photo op. It’s a pale imitation of a real urban gardening program.

Victory gardener at work

Victory gardener at work

I went down to see the garden on my birthday, the day after it was planted, and I’ll admit, the temporary nature of the garden surprised me. I expected something much more permanent. But I have also noticed that I have yet to mention the project to anyone who hasn’t heard about it and who doesn’t think community gardening is a good idea.

Now, to be fair, a lot of people I talk to in my ordinary life are foodies, gardeners, or public health folks who are predisposed to applaud veggies growing just down the steps of City Hall. But this story is being told, and there are people making sure the story doesn’t end on Labor Day. Besides, Alice Waters is behind this, and I defy anyone to say she’s not vehemently committed to the principle of equal access to fresh, local produce for all. This might be a photo op, but awareness has to start being raised somehow.

Regardless, I’ll be able to get a firsthand glimpse of how the garden is growing and how people are responding to it. Starting Sunday morning, I take my first turn as a garden docent, a volunteer position that might include giving garden tours, answering questions about vegetables (Apparently the volunteer coordinator doesn’t read this blog…), and helping with garden maintenance.

I may not have my own garden right now, but I’m about to start experiencing the photo op up close, and I can’t wait to get in there and see what it’s all about.

9 Comments on “Victory! Or, I found a garden (for the time being)”

  1. #1 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)
    on Jul 23rd, 2008 at 11:13 am

    This is so exciting — your first step toward becoming an Oakland gardener. The Victory Garden may start out as a temporary project, but I’m sure it will find a permanent home with your help and the support of those who come to visit.

  2. #2 susan harris
    on Jul 23rd, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Well, GardenRant writers and readers, naysayers and ayesayers alike, would love a report straight from a blogging Victory garden docent. Guest post? Or send us the links to your posts about it? Susan

  3. #3 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 23rd, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Lydia, I’m definitely going to keep an eye on it, post-Slow Food Nation, just to see what happens.

    Susan, I’d love to do a guest post — absolutely! And definitely will keep you guys in the loop as I write about it here.

  4. #4 Heather's Garden
    on Jul 23rd, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    As I’ve read the coveragae of this issue I’ve been horrified by the price of everything out there. How can anyone possibly afford to live there? But I’m excited that we’ll get the real inside scoop on this one.

  5. #5 Patti
    on Jul 24th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    My folks had a Victory Garden when I was about 5 year old, during the war. Can remember that it was lots of fun – even found a little turtle that I befriended. This was in Michigan and it seems like there were a ton of people gardening with us. After all these years I still have a garden. Nothing better than those fresh veggies.

  6. #6 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 25th, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Heather, it’s pretty darn expensive, but you know…the scenery and the weather and all the fresh produce make it all worth it, as far as I’m concerned…

    Patti, a turtle — so cute! And yes — I think gardening can be a habit that can last a lifetime.

  7. #7 Sally
    on Jul 26th, 2008 at 3:28 am

    I think it’s a wonderful idea Genie! Can’t wait to read your posts.

  8. #8 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 28th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Sally, thanks — I hope you enjoy them!

  9. #9 First day at the Victory Garden « The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Jul 29th, 2008 at 5:42 am

    [...] hours into my first stint as a docent in the Victory Garden, I was simultaneously applauding my decision to actually grab my favorite grey hoodie and kicking [...]

Leave a Comment