hey teacher, leave the fruit alone

* warning this post may make you angry

i just got back from the community garden. it has become my nightly ritual, just after cohen goes to bed i go for a jaunt down the block to water the plot and see how everyone is doing. tonight, after some research on the subject, i was planting beets and parsnips, two crops that can be safely harvested well into fall. i love the garden, the smell, the feel, everything. tonight was especially magical as for only a moment the sky opened up and rain came barreling down providing all of the plants around me some much needed moisture while the sun shone down hard from the west, rainbows in the mist. so by now you may be wondering, why would this make me angry? then there is this next bit.

a family of three adults and two children, well dressed and seemingly professional, appear at the top of the park. they are walking with purpose straight towards the fence the contains the garden. i knew right away that they were headed for the raspberries from the plot connected to ours, their branches dangling into the park inviting others to eat from their heavy limbs. once the picking began the littlest girl asked if it was ok to be eating someone else's raspberries, to which the father replied that "if it is outside the fence it is fair game". to a point i agree with this statement, it is a community garden and if a branch is hanging out with ripe berries attached then a taste is ok. it was when they chose to come through the gate, past the sign that clearly stated that taking from the garden was stealing, and right up to where i was sewing my seeds that i began to object. i was stunned, so i looked at them directly and with disdain. the one man, not the father, whispered to the others that he didn't think they should be in here, that i was looking and it didn't seem right, to which the role model of a father replied "i don't give a shit who she is looking at, it is a community garden, it is fair game". really, fair to who? my blood boiled, my fists clenched and i began to feel dizzy. they took away the happy place and filled it with rage. i wanted to say something, i wanted to yell and hit, maybe even chase them out the gate with a pitchfork, but instead i did nothing, i just sat there and glared with judgement as they pillaged the fruit and then started in on the peas. i sat and i stared and i wished that this bullshit didn't happen. my glare was as good as saying something and it was clear that there would be no backing down, it was five against me.

i left shortly after, they were still there. i couldn't handle staying anymore. as i walked home i tried not to take it so personally, but this week has found me growing more and more attached to the plot. i understand more completely how much work goes into the upkeep, how much pride is placed on it's progress and on the products of the labour. it is impossible not to see it as disrespectful and ignorant. impossible not to take it personally.

two nights ago i met the woman who owned marita's plot last year, she told me quite matter of fact that she gave it up because she was sick of having everything in her garden stolen. she was tired of weeding and watering and nurturing row after row only to come and find the land barren. she was tired of having to cart home still green tomatoes that she would have to ripen on her windowsill if she ever hoped to eat them. then yesterday cohen and i bumped into a man who was complaining about his beans, all but those that are most unreachable had been taken. he had walked down to harvest some for him and his wife's dinner only to find the ripe ones depleted. he has had his plot six years, this year, he says, will be his last.

i don't know, is it worth it? if your enjoyment is in the process then i guess it is. still, i am not sure i need another reminder in my life about how selfish people can be, i am cynical enough already. as i am writing this though i am thinking about yesterday afternoon when cohen was "helping" me water the plot by grasping the end of the hose and run his hand wildly through the spray his hair and shirt soaked through to the bone, or the look on his face when he first figured out how to pick a raspberry off the low lying branches and quickly shove it in his mouth a long "mmmmmmm" seeping from his lips, and it doesn't seem so bad. what do you think, is it worth it?


lori said...

you're right, i am upset!

some people are such jerks. as if he didn't know that it is ok to go in and look around a community garden but it is not ok to eat other people's food.

i was so upset last year by things going missing. i almost put up a sign saying "this plot feeds 2 families". i didn't... maybe i will this year. i would be afraid someone would target my plot just in spite.

i think you are right to enjoy all the good things about the garden. i have had so many beautiful moments down there with sosi too. that is what is important, and what we will remember 20 years from now.

m said...

Obviously that man needs a lesson on what community means. I am furious, but I don't know if I would say anything either. But then again, I'm leaving in a month, so maybe I would only because I'd probably not run into them again.

When I was given the orientation to the garden, the woman who helps organize it warned that a lot of the food gets stolen. I said something about how I guess it's fair to have some go to the homeless and she said that it's not the homeless people who are stealing. It's the business people, the professionals. She didn't use the term yuppie scum, but I am. What's dispicable about that man is that he had his children with him and was teaching him that it is perfectly acceptable to steal if it can be justified. But I'm sure he wouldn't accept any justification if I came up to him and stole fruit from his shopping bags. What an asshole.

Is it worth it? I'd like to think it is. The joy you get, Cohen gets from being there. The lessons he's learning about where food comes from, what community is, what it should be, even how it sometimes fails.

If this happens again and you don't feel up to saying something, I suggest being a good neighbour and turn the hose on the neighbouring plot. Perhaps that will chase the vermin away.

Tara said...

what a shame to have that bad apple invade your space. i am not sure what the community garden looks like (post a pic) but can a lock be put on the fence gate or something to keep people out.

i like m's idea of turning the hose on them... say, excuse but i need to water there and start spraying.

one of the main reasons i chose the top floor apt was so i wouldnt have to worry about people picking off my containers. i did have 1 neighbor ask for a few tomatos when they are ready...ask and ye shall receive.

Anonymous said...

i've often thought about your last sentiment t as i garden away just enjoying the moments with luck blissfully unaware of time and surroudings, it is worth it as any labour of love is in doing it - alright i do believe that what does make gardening so great is that it usually returns 2-fold, once while in the process and again when it bears fruit! i for 2 aint that bad its just shitty that you happen to be there while those such unfortunate people blatently invaded - that's just wrong p.s. i would have at least asked what the fuck they thought they were doing now that you're no longer on the other side of the fence?

Claire said...

That is the worst. And the fact that he was teaching his childen that it was okay makes it double awful. Even if they don't understand all the work that goes into it, you would think they'd still understand the concept of stealing.

Barrington said...

Too bad there isn't some kind of high powered laxative powder that everyone in the community garden could dust all their produce with for people eating things immedaitely and some kind of highly skin irritating substance for those who take their stolen goods home. Maybe then people would learn that stealing just isn't nice.

Kleja said...

T- people who take things like that are total assholes! I'm sure that they frequently disrespect the the hard work of others for instant gratification. The fact that they teach their children how to do that is the worst part. Here are some suggestions for better security from Brooklyn Queens Land Trust

Good luck and keep growing stuff!

Kleja said...

Oh I had another thought. To train dogs, sometimes you set a booby trap so they have a bad or startling memory of doing the bad thing. For instance, attaching a string of empty soup cans to the garbage so when the dog tries to get in the cans fall and make loud noises.. stuff like that. If someone got a hold of something rather unsavory like bitter apple spray and sacrificed a few berries or beans that might deter the unwanted guests to the garden. You'd just have to remember which ones you've sprayed :)