Group leasing lot for community garden

URBANA — Apartment living hasn't stopped Robin Arbiter and many of her neighbors lacking a yard from growing vegetables, flowers and herbs in the tiny spaces outside their windows.

"The impulse to grow gardens and flowers is very visible in the neighborhood," she says.

That impulse led the Lierman Neighborhood Action Committee to find land to grow more fresh food in a community garden they can share.

The garden is at the corner of Urbana's Washington Street and Lierman Avenue, and neighbors and other volunteers plan to gather there Saturday to finish building 18 raised garden beds that have been planned for that space.

The land was purchased by the city and is being leased to the neighborhood group for a dollar a year, said Arbiter, an artist and neighborhood activist.

The city also provided a water source for the garden, and University of Illinois students designed the garden and beds, Arbiter said.

The neighborhood group rounded up 150 free pallets to tear apart for lumber to build the garden beds of varying heights to accommodate different users, and the committee has three of the beds built, two of which are already installed on site, she said.

Arbiter said the Lierman Neighborhood Action Committee — which represents the area between Washington Street and Ivanhoe Way and between Philo Road and Kinch Street — will rent the garden spaces to neighborhood gardeners next year for $10 and $30, depending on what an individual or family can afford.

The committee will also maintain the gardens and pay for the water, she said.

The committee also plans to sponsor a garden plot of its own to distribute the produce contents as an outreach to the neighborhood, she said.

Arbiter said she has grown tomatoes and squash outside her apartment window and has had an herb garden along her wheelchair ramp.

This year, she said, she only put in herbs and zinnias for the hummingbirds.

Look around this neighborhood, and you'll see people tending to small patches of ground they've planted all over the place, she says. The new garden beds will provide many more opportunities to expand planting.

"We think we'll rent all of them by next spring," Arbiter said.

Work on the garden beds will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and volunteers who can handle tools, sort plants, use shovels, carry buckets, help register and serve food are welcome. A barbecue lunch will be served to workers at 2 p.m.

To volunteer, call Arbiter at 344-2005 or email her at robin6a@yahoo.com.

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pattsi wrote on August 24, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Bravo project, Robin. She came to one of the CC Local Food Policy Council meetings to explain the garden plans, the help received from several UIUC architecture students who helped design the garden layout and raised beds, the rough circumstances of this neighborhood and how they are working to turn it around, and the collaboration with Urbana for the land. Great model for other areas to grow local foods. There are now 3 community gardens and we need more. If you have plans/ideas along this line, feel free to come to a Food Council mtg, every 2nd and 4th Wed, held at Brookens in the Putnum room, and starts at 5:45 P. Citizen participation is at the top of the agenda, which is posted on the county web site.

http://www.co.champaign.il.us/countybd/2012LoCalFoods.htm