Collard City Growers is a volunteer-run food justice project where we connect arts and culture to growing a wealth of annuals and perennials including vegetables, medicinal herbs, natural dye plants, grains, and fruit trees. For the past decade, we have shared our homegrown harvest at neighborhood events that host hundreds of community members and passersby who come in search of nutrient dense food or “the best lettuce [they’ve] ever tasted.” During off-season, we share our harvest in the form of preserved greens, sauerkraut, pickles, and hot sauce.
We renovated a former carriage house on the lot, which we use as an indoor workshop space for building projects, a classroom for North Troy Environmental Education initiatives, a seed library, and a drying facility for herbs. We’ve held diverse workshops, sharing our knowledge of growing, composting, chicken rearing, bee raising, seed saving and other urban homesteading techniques with the public. The hoop house is one of the newest additions to the community garden space, where we experiment with alternative growing methods like raised beds, and integrated hydroponics and aquaponics systems to grow fish and greens without soil.
The values of food justice and environmental justice are integrated throughout our environmental education campus across one city block in North Central Troy. Collard City Growers has blossomed from the original garden into an integrated network of growing spaces, transforming several other previously vacant lots including:
- Freedom Square (an outdoor concert venue nestled in a growing food forest)
- Food Cycle (the start of a community composting initiative) that is in transition as a outdoor living learning laboratory for our new NATURE Lab Environmental Education Center (housed in a long abandoned house next door)
- L-lot, a space to focus on creating a habitat for pollinators, experimenting with bio-remediation and urban permaculture.
These green spaces have given us an opportunity to work together physically and provide a platform from which to educate the public about the health of our community and ecology as it relates to food. Aside from growing plants and feeding our community, we hope that Collard City Growers and complementing landscapes become places where people ‘grow’ themselves by learning new skills, connecting with neighbors, and sharing their stories as a means to aid community progress.