Sunday, September 25, 2011
A new garden blossoms in Blacksburg
- A great community needs great leaders
- A fresh vision for downtown Christiansburg
- The Black House will be an eyesore no more
- Del. Yost wants to clean up Virginia's laws
From the RoundTable blog
Blacksburg's Sustainability Week ended Saturday. The annual event reminds residents about all the ways they can reduce their environmental footprint. It is both a celebration of Earth and an educational opportunity.
I spent some time last week thinking about what sustainability really means. The typical things sprang to mind. Recycling, protecting watersheds and reducing consumption are all noble goals during Sustainability Week and any other week.
There is more to it than just that, though. I found at least one deeper sense of sustainability tucked away not far from the town's new roundabout.
Hidden from the streets, surrounded by homes, a neighborhood garden blossomed this summer. Mike Rosenzweig, whose property hosts it, showed me around. Late raspberries, squash and tomatoes still colored the plants. Browning corn stalks loomed over everything, ready to adorn a Halloween display. Paths divided the plants and an attractive arch stood near the center.
Rosenzweig is an instructor in the Biological Sciences Department at Virginia Tech. He coordinates outreach and heads the SEEDS (Seek Education, Explore DiScover) program that leads community ecology education programs.
His secluded spot is not the town's first communal garden. Blacksburg YMCA has operated community gardens for years. Rosenzweig does not want to replace the Y's. His vision is smaller, more particular.
"We wanted to make it a neighborhood garden," he said. "The goal was to get neighbors to come together."
Unlike a "community" garden, this one serves just the people nearby, the ones who can walk to it and put in a few minutes weeding in the evening.
More than a dozen neighborhood households participated. They gathered weekly to help each other out. Veterans coached novices. One gardener was a Virginia Tech undergraduate who possessed the rare sense that he lived in a community, not just at a college.
"I love doing this because I like meeting my neighbors. Folks would come by just to check it out," Rosenzweig said.
The remainder came from the tap. The gardeners have an informal agreement to split the cost.
That still could have cost a fair bit, but Rosenzweig installed a water meter that tracks how much water winds up on the garden. He reports that usage to the town so he does not have to pay sewer fees on those gallons.
Blacksburg, like many other localities, including Christiansburg, assumes every gallon of water that goes into a house comes out through the sewer. They do not measure sewer usage even though they charge by the gallon.
Such mundane concerns slip away in the peaceful space nestled in the neighborhood.
"Just being outside, not in the house, with your neighbors, listening to the other living things, it's special," Rosenzweig said. "If folks slow down just a little bit and pay attention to the rhythms of nature, it might make them more aware."
Anyone can grow a garden, even if it is just tomatoes and herbs in pots. They will burst with vitamins and flavor unlike anything on the grocer's shelf.
Sustainability week is about recycling, protecting watersheds and reducing consumption, but those are the easy things. Real sustainability involves getting in touch with the natural world around us, recognizing that it needs our protection and that if we work together, we can do it. It is something that we can accomplish as neighbors.