Did you know 1 in 3 children in Arizona is considered “hungry?” This is simply unacceptable to me.
Remember when I tried to get that community garden off the ground, so to speak, in central Phoenix? Well, a few lessons were learned in the toil. Namely, taking earth that’s been happily growing Bermuda grass for decades and trying to transform it into fertile soil for vegetables requires a lot more than a bunch of volunteers and hand tools. Perhaps a commercial grade construction crew could have done it, but we couldn’t. We, meaning me and probably more than a hundred volunteers in the last two years, spent countless hours digging, weeding, pulling, pushing and aching as a result. The bumper crop of okra was a mild success but the true gem of the garden is the orchard. The 75 fruit trees don’t mind a bit of Bermuda at their heels. With regular irrigation, they are thriving.
In the next year we should see a crop of citrus, apples, cherries, plums and figs. The trees cost about $20 a piece to get into the earth. They require little care and will soon be mighty producers of fresh fruit — a luxury in this community.
This got me thinking.
My little church isn’t the only one on irrigation in central Phoenix. Nor are we the only faith community with grandfathered water rights, lots of space, a desire to be more social aware, and home to community-minded folk. What if we paired the Valley Permaculture Alliance (I’m a board member) with the Association of Arizona Food Banks and the local faith community? What if we asked each church, synagogue, mosque and faith center on irrigation to plant 5 fruit trees at an expense of $100? We could partner the churches with a permaculture volunteer who knew something about planting trees and a food bank willing to get the produce to hungry families in the Valley?
Even better, what if we grew enough produce that there was a glut and we were able to send fresh fruit created from earth and water that was otherwise going to feed Bermuda grass to hungry bellies nationally?
Oh, we can. And we will. The national gleaning system, which the Association of Arizona Food Banks is a part of, will likely see truck-loads of grapefruit, oranges and lemons sent to northern states in return for trucks of potatoes and grain for desert bellies. The best part of this community project is that no extra water or space is needed. Fewer than 10 volunteer hours a year are required and a simple investment of $100. I don’t think we could make large-scale community changing work any simpler.
Here is where you come into play. Do you attend a church or other faith center in the Phoenix area? Do you have irrigation? Are you interested in helping see this project come to light? I’ve got the permaculture guild and the food banks on board. My church will be participating. I’ll be volunteering. I’d love it if you would too.