When it comes to sustainability, The Natural Steps defines it as, “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” At times, sustainability may seem to be a broad term to those who don’t understand the “true” meaning behind the definition; however, if an individual examined the four principles which underline sustainability
- Reduce and eventually eliminate our contribution to the systematic accumulation of materials from the earth’s crust.
- Reduce and eliminate our contribution to the systematic accumulation of substances produced by society.
- Reduce and eliminate our contribution to the ongoing physical degradation of nature.
- Reduce and eliminate our contribution to conditions that systematically undermine people’s ability to meet their basic needs.
We Are Growing
they would understand what it is like to an intern working with Unity Garden Inc.. Unity Gardens started a vision and a dream out of the back of Sara Stewart’s car and today it has sprouted and given life to over 30 gardens in the South Bend area. This summer will best the best experience for educating and empowering a new found sense of “earthly pride” for me because I’m a city boy who knows nothing about gardening. In a normal day, I don’t usually utilize the land and the resources around me to make the world a better place for me, my children, and my children’s children. I’ve been interning for a week now and I’ve learned the most important concept about life which to me is, “What you take from the earth, you must replenish by giving something else to the Earth.” Since I started at Unity Gardens, we have picked food, yet we’ve planted more than we’ve picked. Instead of using pesticides to keep the weeds down, we use recycled grass clipping from mowed lawns to eliminate this problem, and, most importantly, we have worked with citizens in the community, work release inmates, and other community organizations and business in providing both education and hands on experience in gardening world. Sustainability starts will education and empowerment and working/interning with Unity Gardens will allow me to do both of these in my own life and in the life of the other volunteers and garden leaders that we work with daily. Give back, educate, love the world, and, most importantly, Carpe Diem.
When I first considered doing an internship, I knew that I wanted to intern somewhere that would teach/instill something new inside of me, while at the same time, working with an organization that would utilize all of my talents for their best interest. Sara is open about how business works, how to go out and raise awareness as well as money, and, most importantly, how to bring people, the planet, and profits all in line together. Because Sara offers all of this without even trying, I knew that the knowledge and the skills that I’ve gained from my marketing and psychology classes would help spread the Unity Garden message to other members in the community who would listen to me. For the past week, I’ve had my hands in many of the activities that keep Unity Gardens up and running. I like to consider myself a people person; however, I don’t like to ask, pressure, and/or beg for money, but to my surprise, this week was a little different. On my very first day of interning, Sara asked me what was one job/activity that I was uncomfortable doing because in this “give-in-take” relationship; she would take what I had to offer and give me experience where I needed it most. Due to the fact that Unity Gardens is a non-profit, they get donations from the government, a.k.a. NAP Credits, but they have duties that they must fulfill in order to continue receiving these funds. Initially, I knew nothing about NAP Credits so this is how Sara explained them to me èè
- First apply for the credit (Sara applied for $60,000 in 2011)
- If approved, the government gives you half (Sara receive $30,000 which goes toward business expenses)
- From August to June 1st, you must raise the rest of the money (fundraising).
- If you don’t raise your funds in time you have to sit out for TWO YEARS!!!
- The best thing about the program is that those who donate money to Unity Gardens get HALF of the amount back when they file their taxes. NOT a tax deduction but it actually goes with your refund or it can be applied to your tax bill if you owe the government.
When it comes to sustainability, condition 1 states that, as a society, we must reduce and eventually eliminate our contribution to the systematic accumulation of materials from the earth’s crust. I believe that I am contributing to this condition for these two reasons:
- When it came to fundraising, I made the majority of my first contacts via the telephone because I didn’t want to waste excess gas while polluting the environment even further just riding around to hear No’s or Yes’s. When it did come to driving, I drove to the McKinley Town and Country Shopping Center in Mishawaka, parked my car, and walked business to business because my energy cost are renewable and sustainable; unlike the petroleum that my car uses.
- For those who don’t know, I live in Elkhart and I intern in South Bend Monday thru Thursday. I’m not a fan of “actual” summer school classes, but I felt that if I had to drive out there everyday, I should maximize my time effort and energy. As a result, I became a true summer school student. I intern from 9:30am to 12:30pm, I go to my Fine Arts class from 1pm to 2:30pm, and from 6pm to 10pm I work with a cleaning company in Elkhart, IN. Fun, Fun, FunèWork, Work, Work è Tired, Rest, Tiredèè == a BEAUTIFUL FUFILLED LIFE. Carpe Diem.
WE GROW MORE THAN VEGETABLES HERE!!!!
When it comes to sustainability, condition 2 states that, as a society, we must reduce and eventually eliminate our contribution to the systematic accumulation of substances produced by society. When I read this system condition, I automatically think Unity Gardens. But Why? Cardboard è Grass Clippings è Mulch è No, No, No Pesticides. What do these actually mean? True Sustainable Gardening! When I first walked onto the huge Pick-for-Free at LaSalle Square, I was wondering how/why green plants (at that time they all looked like plants/flowers to me) were growing around what seemed to be dead grass. Being a city boy, I had a lot to learn about how to run/grow a successful garden, and for those who don’t know, here’s how it goes
- First you decide whether you will plant directly in the ground or will you construct a raised bed in which you will grow your garden. Whichever option you choose, the following steps for a pesticide free sustainable garden will follow in the same order.
- Now you have to get some cardboard. Buy why might you ask? Several reasons! First, the cardboard keeps the weeds down, which means less manual labor in the end. Second, the cardboard breaks back down into the environment which feeds both the soil and the worms that eat and live inside of the soil. Now that you have the education on what the cardboard does, let’s use it. You must wet the cardboard with water to start the process. The water helps the cardboard break down as well as it helps nourish the roots that are growing from your plants.
- If you have a raised bed, you will place dirt (topsoil) onto the cardboard and fill the beds to the top which is based on how deep you constructed the beds. If you not using a raised bed, cut an X into the cardboard where you want plants to go, use a little garden shovel to dig some of the dirt out, and then place your plants into the dirt.
- Now you take grass clipping from your yard, your neighbors yard, or wherever you can get them for as cheep as possible and place them around your plants. You want to place a nice thick layer down because it keeps the ground and your plants from drying out and dying as fast because it cools the land around your plants.
- Now you want to mulch around your raised beds or in the lanes around the plants that you have placed directly into the ground. The mulch helps with aesthetic beauty, it keeps the weeds down, and the mulch also breaks down into the land. Because of this, if you have a garden that isn’t inside of a raised bed, when you go to plant the next year, you just turn the mulch over into the land and it acts like nourishment for the land for the next couple of years until it breaks all the way down.
Like Mrs. Reagan had her Just Say No to drugs Campaign, sustainable farmers must say no to pesticides. Pesticides kill bugs, harm/ pollute your final product, and they degrade the land which IS NOT sustainable. This internship has been a positive experience because before I came here; I knew nothing about farm style gardening, urban gardening, or even herb gardening in your kitchen, but now I can take my knowledge with me to educate and empower others on what it means to be truly sustainable.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked about sustainability in terms of four conditions; however, sustainability and sustainable living has other parts that must be evaluated. In the Tools for the Transition to Sustainability, Donella Meadows believe that in order for the sustainability revolution to take over, people must possess the following tools:
- Visioning- means imagining at first generally and then with increasing specificity, what you really want. That is, what you really want, not what someone has taught you to want, and not what you have learned to be willing to settle for.
- Networking- whatever the form, they are made up of people who share a common interest in some aspect of life, who stay in touch and pass around data and tools and ideas and encouragement, who like and respect and support each other. It reminds people that they are not alone.
- Truth Telling- Lies distort the information stream. A system cannot function well if its information systems are corrupted by lies.
- Learning- means the willingness to go slowly, to try things out, and to collect information about the effects of actions, including information that the action is not working.
- Loving- humanity cannot triumph in the adventure of reducing the human footprint to a sustainable level if that adventure is not undertaken in a spirit of global partnership. Humanity must learn to love the idea of leaving future generations a living planet.
I’ve talked about how Unity Gardens is helping the city and the residents in South Bend based on the followings of the Natural Step, yet, at Unity Gardens, they’ve gone above and beyond that because Sara and her organization follow these tools as well. Before I started my internship, I talked to Sara and she told me about her vision of how/what she wanted to do at LaSalle Square (the Garden to Market Education area and the Peace Bees Project). Not only did she describe what she wanted to do but she also made a physical map of how she wanted everything to look. This internship has been a perfect give-and-take relationship because both Sara and I have been able to network with people whom we’ve never worked with before. Being that I am about to graduate next semester, I need to network and meet with as many business people as I can. For me, networking, learning, and visioning are all traits that I could use extra strength in when it comes to the business world. I’m so grateful that Sara has taken a city boy like me under her wing, given me direction, insight, and previously unknown knowledge which has helped to create an even more rounded individual than I was when I first met her in April of 2012. Because Sara has educated and empowered me, I feel that it is my job to get her vision and/or message out to the masses of people who aren’t on the Unity Garden bandwagon. As Donella Meadows asserts, “Vision without action is useless. But action without vision is directionless and feeble. Vision is absolutely necessary to guide and motivate”.
This has been a great experience this year. I worked with an organization that changed the dynamic of South Bend from the back of a car. The Unity Gardens message has spread from the mind of a visionary, and saint to an entire city that wants to create a more sustainable Michiana. Her little garden idea to help feed the homeless and poverty stricken in South Bend has grew a life of its own which has given root to over 40 gardens throughout the city. In terms of sustainability, I believe that getting her message across has been such a success because she practices while she preaches the steps in building a sustainable business which are:
- Build Awareness and Understanding- she’s been in newspapers, TV, radio, and, most importantly, word of mouth.
- Collaborates- She doesn’t do this all alone. She has Mitch at the big garden, garden leaders and volunteers at over 40 gardens, cork release inmates, the City of South Bend, Martin’s Greenhouses, big Business sponsors, small business sponsors, and she also has Reggie.
- Create a Plan- she created it, she’s sticking to it, but, most importantly, she adapts when the situation needs it.
- Get involved- Unity gardens is an actual hands-on garden, with real people, and no machines to do the work. As Sara would say, “It’s a labor of Love!”
I haven’t been the only person interning this summer, yet I do think that my internship, with Unity Gardens, was the only one that was truly sustainable in terms of reducing our contribution to all four conditions. At Unity Gardens, we met the conditions by reducing and eliminating our contribution to:
- the systematic accumulation of materials from the earth’s crust. At Unity Gardens we car-pool when we do plant pick ups.
- the systematic accumulation of substances produced by society. At Unity Gardens we use things that bio-degrade. (cardboard, mulch, grass clipping, no pesticides)
- the ongoing physical degradation of nature. At Unity Gardens we plant what is most requested, has the best plant-to-yield ratio, and, most importantly, what will feed the most in the fastest amount of time without degrading all of the nutrients inside of the soil.
- that systematically undermine people’s ability to meet their basic needs. At Unity Gardens we don’t undermine people’s ability to meet their needs; we offer assistance with these needs.
I’ve taken so much education from Sara and Unity Gardens this summer that I feel obligated to giver her something in return. The best thing that I think I can give her and the organization besides my time would be what I’ve learned from others along the way. Tour De Unity was a success this year because everyone who participated woke up that day, they made it to and from the ride safely, and, to my knowledge, everyone woke up the next day which is a beautiful blessing!! However, I would tell Sara that Father’s Day and/or Father’s Day weekend isn’t a good weekend to have an activity. Other than that, I’ve loved every bit of my internship. Sara, if you reading this, keep up the work, stay honest, informative, open, loving, and caring; and, if you do this, the SKY is the Limit and Unity Gardens will makes it way out of the South Bend Sky and it will spill over to the whole Indiana Skyè Illinois Skyè Ohio Skyè and as Buzz Light-year would say “Sara it we are going to infinity and beyond!”