"[my son] talks about having a garden of his own when he grows up. It just keeps going. It's not just plants. As a parent I'm planting ideas, skills, hobbies, and interests that are outside. Leading to healthier choices ..."
Motivational movement best describes our meeting with Becca, as she wasn't shy about community engagement and the catalyst gardening provides in the connection to others. "It gives people something to talk about. It builds relationships and... For me a lot of this happens at the park when I’m there with my son. So I’m not going to be afraid next time to say - Hey remember last time when we were talking about our gardens - last week?"
The crux of our meeting revolved around the development of communities and the role urban gardening plays in getting your neighbors out of their homes and interacting with one another. Becca however, made it quite clear that this wasn't always part of her life. "I didn’t garden at all growing up... My mom always gardened but I never was out there helping her. She did a lot of flowers and a lot of herbs"
Becca's exhaustive work with non-profits in the Portland Metro area allowed her to cross paths with Growing Gardens. "I wanted to start a garden of my own... I had plenty of space at the place I was living at and decided I wanted to grow a garden." True to Becca's sincere belief in community connections, she reached out to Growing Gardens, and a relationship began. "What I liked about the idea of Growing Gardens was that I didn’t have any experience. I had a helping hand with Growing Gardens and that’s what I needed because I didn’t know what I was doing"
In addition to the relationship Becca was making with the gardening community, she was establishing a bond with the soil itself. "For me, I mean, it really just allows me to clear my head... I knew as soon as I got out there and started working and doing something productive but relaxing it would help clear my mind. It gives you something to focus on so you’re not focusing on whatever - it’s kind of a nice meditative break from real life. I love to come home at night and water and weed. It gives me a sense of accomplishment that I’ve taken care of something."
The body of work Becca provides to her garden is not lost towards her mantra, and the connection urban agriculture means to the relationship with her son. "He’s been coming home with little plants and flowers for me since preschool but it wasn’t until I actually got around to starting the garden that we ever got anything in the ground... So, he’s going to be a lot more invested. I feel proud that we were able to see that all the way through and we’re now growing his plants." Providing healthy food options for Becca's son was a point of interest she wanted to instill in his life moving forward. "I guess he was never a very good vegetable eater so I thought if I got him involved in the process of growing then he might be more interested in trying the vegetables. It was something we could do together. He would be learning a skill, then the idea was, if he was invested then he would eat and try new vegetables... I’m constantly reminding him to eat something from the earth."
Our interview with Becca touched on many diverse topics, but as an interviewer, I was deeply driven by how she tied urban agricultural and home gardening to the surrounding neighbors, and how relationships are built on common interests. "Every person that I know in my neighborhood has a garden of some sort. So everybody that I know is doing urban gardening... I think it’s huge, I think there’s a ton of community building that happens... You end up trading foods, trading - 'Hey I’ve got a surplus of zucchini - great! Come take some of my tomatoes... It’s not just tips and tricks there’s sharing of the fruits of your labor. And getting to do some food exchanges, and help build the community in other ways."
Our interview with Becca provided insight on how local Portland residents occupy space, and how it relates to the surrounding neighbors. I asked Becca to give us one final thought: "Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be afraid to look at websites, don’t be afraid to do trial and error."
Interview by Brian Larsen, Joe Lopez & Michael Miller