How can we have an economy so that people don’t go hungry. — Wayne Curtis
Excerpted material from YES! Magazine, by Sarah van Gelder
Myrtle Thompson Curtis and Wayne Curtis took a small, empty plot of land, brought together friends, members of a nearby church, and other volunteers, and began the Feed’om Freedom Growers. Tomatoes, greens, strawberries, and other crops grow in raised beds and in rows. They also teach classes on healthy cooking, and a book club was started by young people who work in the garden.
“I went to my old neighborhood, and I had to cry,” Curtis told a group visiting his garden as part of a tour sponsored by the Allied Media Conference. “There’s nothing there. Nothing at all. They were telling me about their friends, who were my friends growing up, who are no longer with us.”
Slowly, their new block is changing. Myrtle Curtis was encouraged when neighbors down the street came out when they saw a crowd of people getting off a bus and out of a caravan of cars to visit the garden. “We don’t see our neighbors much,” she said. “This area is too scary to mingle. But they came out to participate, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Now Wayne and Myrtle are looking to expand to an empty lot across the street from the garden, and they’d like to use an abandoned house that borders on the lot as a community center.
“It’s a question of money and control and misuse of power,” Wayne Curtis told the group. “This is a problem we need to resolve like adults,” he said. “I was homeless, and I walked past a grocery store, and I was hungry, and that didn’t make any sense to me. … How can we get this land. How can we get seeds and bees so we can make honey. How can we have an economy so that people don’t go hungry.”
There are over 800 community gardens, ranging from the small and precarious, to large entities like Earth Works that are increasingly able to bring fresh foods to Detroit’s food deserts and give Detroiters opportunities for meaningful work and involvement in their communities.