Building Community the Old-Fashioned Way

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Albert Allen Moore

I remember as a child, many in my neighborhood had back yard gardens and kept chickens. We ate food in season, grown from our gardens, like expectant children at Christmas, waiting for what each growing season would bring next to the table. People did things for themselves
because that was the norm and to save money.

Today, ours is a nation of consumers, depending on others for absolutely everything. We eat fresh tomatoes, other vegetables and fruits year round, sourced from all over the world. No longer can I walk to the grocery store because there are none in my neighborhood. Food deserts in urban areas are the norm in our nation and a detriment to our health. Why did this happen and what can I, as an individual, do about this problem? Look to the past for the answer. Our solution, create an environment where we can improve this situation. I, along with my son, Justin, a senior urban planner for the city of New York, created the Urban Patch organization and programs.

Urban Patch began in 2010 and is based in urban Indianapolis metropolitan neighborhoods. As communities move forward and revitalize, it is important they do so with a careful balance of economic, social and environmental considerations. Our goal is to provide part of that balance.

We aim to take an incremental resourceful approach to neighborhood development and urban design. Each step includes an aspect that takes on the built fabric of the city (the urban) and in parallel an aspect addressing the environmental fabric of the city (the patch), incorporating both into the social, economic, and cultural dynamics and considerations that are necessary for a successful and resilient urban community.

The first phase of the Urban Patch has three small projects already initiated, and will be completed by the fall of 2012. The first is the Stone Soup Kitchen Garden, a collaborative and educational urban garden program. The second is the Delaware Project, the preservation/renovation of a historic inner-city home. Both projects are located in the Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhood which is home to a number of cultural, educational, civic institutions, and open spaces.

The “Stone Soup Kitchen Garden,” the educational component, is named after the old fable about collaboration and altruism among people. In such spirit, The Urban Patch – Stone Soup Kitchen Garden is working with both the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation and Fall Creek Gardens: Urban Growers Resource Center to support their comprehensive urban gardening initiatives and programs. It is also a memorial to the legacy of Albert Allen Moore who was the Agricultural Director at the Flanner House in Indianapolis during the late 1940s. This is an important reference to the cultural heritage of Indianapolis African Americans from the Great Migration who helped to settle and develop Indianapolis. The garden and the environment it creates will be an active and visible commemoration of those who are part of an important legacy for urban agriculture, gardening, and community development in our city and beyond.

The third project is a permaculture garden and urban bee farm, to be located on the old home site of Albert A. Moore located at 1045 West 29th Street.

Moving forward, we must do things differently. The foundations of our urban communities have been cracked by several events over time including urban flight and school busing. More recently, the emergence of mega churches and people’s busy electronic lifestyles leave little time for community building through traditional time-tested methods, has augmented that foundation decline. The Community Garden just may be the new frontier, where neighborhood foundations are strengthened, bringing people together to recreate “customary neighborhoods” where people know each other and interact and communicate face to face, energized by community spirit.

Joyce serves as director of Urban Patch (www.urbanpatch.org) and is partnering with Fall Creek Gardens.