Springfield Community Gardens a Unifying Service, Officials Say

Apr 6, 2017

Springfield Community Gardens continues to expand with plans for a new plot in the city’s Zone 1 region. These gardens help bring the community together while producing food for local entities.

The beds of plants that make up the Market Garden.
Credit Claire Kidwell / KSMU

Alexa Poindexter, who manages the Market Garden, takes me through the rows of vegetables that it currently has to offer. The garden is one of nearly two dozen that Springfield Community Gardens has throughout Springfield. She says these plots often serve as points of contact with passersby.

“So the bus stop is right over here, and everyday I’m getting people passing by that are like hey what are you doing over there? What are you growing, how’s it going, and I just wouldn’t have that kind of contact if I didn’t live and work here in an urban setting.”

This particular garden is adjacent to the Fairbanks Community Center in Springfield’s Grant Beach neighborhood. Out of SCG’s 20 gardens, nine are in Zone One with another one coming to the area soon.

“Gardens build neighborhood trust, and they have the potential to lower crime.”

Interim director and co-founder Maile Auterson says the goal of Springfield Community Gardens align with that of the city and its Zone Blitz initiative to alleviate poverty and address other concerns of north siders.

“We fit right in with health outcomes that need to be improved in Zone 1. People are healthy when they’re connected, and people are healthy when they care about what they put inside their body.”

Auterson describes that these gardens can help individuals in need become resilient, and come together to create something unique.

“People who don’t have enough resources, they know how to collaborate in ways that people who have money don’t. They know how to make things work by working together, because they don’t have the resources to work separately. So there’s so much that the other zones can learn form Zone 1, and we really encourage people to come to Zone 1 and see what we’re up to here.”

When I spoke with the volunteers there, they all described how being a part of the gardens has shaped their outlook on the community. Emilee Blansit, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer that is working with SCG this year, says she’s been most impacted by the “social capital” gained  here.

“It’s really amazing how you can show up at a garden and meet a variety of people all with very different backgrounds and everybody is there for different reasons…it’s a really easy way to just get connected and share resources and share knowledge, it’s really powerful to be a part of that community.”

Poindexter and Jarek Srnka inspect new growth in the garden.
Credit Claire Kidwell / KSMU

Poindexter is discussing some of the new plants that have just come up with SCG intern and Missouri State University student Jarek Srnka. Once these vegetables are ready to eat, they will be distributed to a variety of places, says Poindexter. That includes C Street Market, and for preschoolers at The Fairbanks.

“So they’re serving about 30 people and kids breakfast, lunch, and a snack. So I’ve tried to do some crop planting here to make kid-friendly foods available, just some things I can start getting kids into.”

Food is universal, she adds, suggesting there’s a unifying element to creating and maintaining good gardens.

“None of us get to not eat, we all have to eat and that relies on agriculture and gardens and healthy soil and clean water, and that’s something where we can all find a common ground.”

Learn more about Springfield Community Gardens here, and you can connect with SCG through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.