On March 18, Oberlin City Council rejected Zion Community Development Corporation’s offer to donate garden tools, shed, and other materials used at Legion Field Community Garden to the City. The gardeners of Legion Field were told that managing community gardens would not be feasible with current City staff capacity. We then formed a new partnership with Our F.A.M.I.L.Y., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which already sponsors three gardens in Lorain County. We have also reached out to Madison Baker from the Sustainable Agriculture Program at Lorain County Community College to manage the garden.
This past week, Our F.A.M.I.L.Y. submitted a new draft of the user agreement to the City for council approval. The City has not responded to our draft agreement as of this writing. As a result, a group of Oberlin College student volunteers was not permitted to contribute over 40 hours of work on improvements to the garden this past weekend. The City has made no improvements to the site for more than two decades and now is blocking local residents from improving the site as they have done each season for nearly 10 years. Beyond individual council members’ comments about the garden’s appearance and productivity, the body has not been forthcoming with reasons for the City’s inaction. Any concerns could be addressed in the user agreement with our new sponsor.
Legion Field gardeners would welcome a community dialogue on the criteria for success for community gardens. Abandoning nearly 10 years of community gardening at Legion Field without real community dialogue is not a fair or legitimate exercise of power by City Council.
It’s time City Council include the residents of South Oberlin in this dialogue through city-sponsored “listening sessions.” Come down to the neighborhood and ask the residents: What should be done with Legion Field? You will discover that the garden is valued as an asset by most residents, even when they are not actually gardening there. The success of a community garden is measured not only in pounds of produce but also how it creates a common purpose and sense of community for the whole neighborhood