What better topic to discuss on a bone-chilling February night in Dayton, than growing beautiful, luscious food in your own garden? That is exactly what a group of urban Daytonians did on Thursday night, in the South Park historic district. What started as a Facebook status update by Carli Dixon, South Park resident and local small business owner, quickly erupted into a flurry of dialogue on the topic. The post by Dixon referred to attending the annual OEFFA Conference (Ohio ecological Food and Farm Assn) and meeting Joel Salatin, the inventive farmer highlighted in recent documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh.
If you haven’t seen the movies, you may find it baffling that 10 young, talented women from the Dayton region would consider a West Virginia farmer a ROCK STAR, but it is in fact the words of that Rock Star, Joel Salatin, that ultimately united them all last night. The loosely knit group of neighbors and friends converged at Dixon’s home to hear what Salatin had to say at the OEFFA conference, as well as to share information and ideas relating to the topic of creating sustainable food systems for our region.
For some, like Winter Rowley of South Park, sustainable food systems include developing a vermicompost (worm composting) site in the region, which she has started with 1 lb. of worms currently residing in her basement. Additionally, Rowley sees food as means to bridge the gap between urban dwellers that span a wide range of socio-economic terrain. For others, like Nakia Angelique and Shannon Pote, the focus is on children and healthy food; how to improve the food made available to children in our local school systems, and the positive impact that effort could have.
Inviting the participation of school children in the process of growing, harvesting and enjoying the garden is the passion of another meeting attendee, Jenn Olt. As a local Montessori school teacher, and active mom, artist and gardener, Olt sees real value in the aesthetic and educational contribution that thriving urban gardens can make to our region.
Others in attendance are actively pursuing development of visible downtown sites for vegetable and flower gardens. Kate Ervin and Amy Lee, South Park residents and active contributors to the urban creative and gardening scene, are pursuing their aspirations to start a small scale farm in the old Cliborne Manor site in South Park. They hope to invite participation from residents in the surrounding neighborhoods and encourage a partnership with the catering department of Miami Valley Hospital. And lastly, Carli & Hamilton Dixon, who recently acquired an urban lot on E. Third Street, intend to install raised beds for this season, and begin the process of small scale intensive growing on what used to be a parking lot, with a broader vision that includes leasing those plots to downtown residents and installing a summer kitchen for learning the art of canning and dehydrating.
Big dreams, by capable Daytonians, and the first seeds have been sown.
Submitted by Carli Dixon