Today is the birthday of Dr. James H. Kelly, the healer, gardener, and community leader in whose name our garden at the CentraCare Health Plaza is dedicated. As we remember with gratitude the commitment Dr. Kelly had to land and human health, it offers us an opportunity to reflect on all that this commitment means.
St. Cloud is an urban landscape with a rural heart. We don’t have to travel far from the heart of the city to find wide open spaces, food production at an industrial scale, livestock, and other trappings of an agrarian world. And yet within the city, food-producing green spaces are few and far between. Community Gardens like those hosted at CentraCare, Maine Prairie, Schmidt Park, and SCSU are oases of accessible, local healthy fresh food in a sea of manicured lawns, single family homes, big box stores and concrete parking lots.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship recently hosted a Food Sovereignty Workshop with John E. Peck, Executive Director of Family Farm Defenders. John taught us that recreating urban green spaces as havens of fresh food is not only necessary to sustain our communities, but also a “norm” across the globe. As John pointed out, a whopping 15% of the world’s food is grown in cities! A surprisingly small number of the world’s food – only 10%! – crosses a border. Sometimes we look at the industrial food system in the United States and the problem feels so mammoth that it seems hopeless to change it. But the numbers tell us that another world is possible – in fact, it is already here.
Community Gardens like the James H. Kelly Garden at CentraCare are part of the solution. At Kelly Garden, over 40 families – many of whom include employees of the Plaza – are growing their own food, canning and preserving, and eating well all year round. Some gardeners are employing innovative techniques for maintaining their plots – one of our gardeners has a water catchment system rigged above his plot which feeds rainwater to his plants on a timer!
New this year at CentraCare Health Plaza, we are planting a fruit orchard near the community gardens. As it matures it will become a sustainable resource for a diversity of fresh fruits. We are grateful to the CentraCare Health Foundation for supporting our efforts to create more sustainable and beautiful spaces throughout Greater St. Cloud by funding the orchard.
And we are forever grateful to Dr. James H. Kelly for the inspiration, commitment and leadership in promoting health, sustainability, and community through one simple act: planting a seed.