VISTA Stories: AUGUST 2009

in

Troublemakers-turned-Changemakers

By Sam Lipschultz, Food Access Project Coordinator at Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

Here is one of my favorite stories from a gardener I work with at the Ingersoll Public Housing in Fort Greene. I entered the scene post-confrontation.

One Tuesday in July, when some of the young ones were out in the Ingersoll Houses garden, trash began to fly. They looked up at the building towering overheard. Two girls were throwing trash at them. 

The gardeners yelled, “Hey! Stop that! Why are you throwing trash at us?!”  The girls scurried inside.

The gardeners returned to their work frustrated and confused by the actions of the young girls from upstairs. Several minutes later, the two girls rounded the corner and walked into the garden. They were trying to look tough, like they were proud to have thrown that trash; their sheepishness shown through.  They wanted to hang out in the garden.

“Well, then you gotta work,” said an older gardener.

They agreed to work, but made trouble instead. They avoided the group, kicking woodchips and yelling at one another. But they were allowed to stay. The next week, they came back. Soon, they were two of the most consistent young gardeners—and they worked. They beautified the garden with painted stones and homemade bird feeders, harvested tomatoes and watered plants. On October 10th, we celebrated the first season of the Ingersoll Garden of Eden with a potluck. Everyone came out, even the troublemakers-turned-changemakers, looking as shy as ever.