NEWTON — The concept of a “collectively-tended, interactive, and functional land art piece for the community” has taken root on a previously vacant block of turf here.
A group with the socialist-sounding name of People’s Food Security Bureau is behind what they call PLOT, a community sharing garden that aims to provide opportunities for participation, inspiration, education and food for the surrounding community.
In other words, a big ol’ garden is growing on a field south of Newton Arena, and everyone’s invited to share in its harvest.
The fertile plots radiate from the centre of a medicine wheel, a path that embodies the circle of life in Aboriginal cultures.
Onions, garlic, spinach, kale, corn, onions, peppers, cabbage, potatoes – all of these vegetables and many more fill the carefully tilled dirt at 71st Avenue and 137A Street.
“I think a lot of people like the idea of building something and then sharing it, which is kind of unusual in our society,” said Don Li-Leger, a PLOT founder.
“Usually you build it and it’s yours, you want the profit and then more profits. It’s the Trump-ism of the world.”
This garden is different that way.
Since February, many volunteers – Cora Li-Leger (Don’s wife), fellow artist Deb Putman and Amy Ustergerling among them – have worked to create a welcoming place on city-owned land, with the apparent blessing of the parks department.
“The city has been very generous and co-operative,” Li-Leger said. “I think there is a plan to turn all of this into a plaza park at some point, and we’re allowed to use this (land) for one year, this growing season, and we’re happy to do that. It’s about the idea of having a community garden that we like, having people come and share in the garden, that’s the important thing.”
(CLICK HERE to see view aerial footage of the PLOT project.)
Stories abound of people coming across the garden, learning about it and then getting to work.
“One of the homeless guys became our lawn-mowing guy, and we hired him to do that,” Li-Leger noted. “He did a great job, and then he was telling his friends to be respectful of the garden, and they have been. We haven’t had a problem with theft or anything – a little bit of litter, but it’s not a problem.
“People want to get involved,” he added, “and messages are left on the bulletin board, the chalkboard there, and as the summer warms up we’ll get more and more people here for events, picnics and things like that. We’re building up to that, slowly building connections.”
On June 20, an event at the PLOT medicine wheel will mark the summer solstice.
“We artists can help with those connections by creating places like this, and it feels so good here,” Putman said. “It’s the most peaceful, open, welcoming space. It just calms your body being here.”