Signs of Sustainability: Bringing people together at the Ithaca Community Garden

By Tom Shelley
Sustainable Tompkins

The following is an interview conducted by Tom Shelley with Rev. Olivia Armstrong, the executive director at Rainbow Healing Center of America regarding her involvement with community gardens.

Photo by Tom Shelley Sunflowers grown by the author bask in the sun at the Ithaca Community Garden.
Photo by Tom Shelley
Sunflowers grown by the author bask in the sun at the Ithaca Community Garden.

Tom Shelley: So how long have you been involved with Project Growing Hope and the Ithaca Community Gardens?
Olivia Armstrong: 2016 is my second year with ICG and the first year with The Rainbow Garden plot for the Rainbow Healing Center of America. The plot was donated to RHC by Project Growing Hope, and I thank Project Growing Hope for their donation.
TS: What was your involvement with the ICG this year?
OA: I did a lot with the Ithaca Community Gardens this year, We had a lots of community-based programs and community involvement. “Cash” was Youth Program Director, “True” toiled the soil and gave stipends to youth and individuals who helped weed. New Roots Charter School Dean, Jhakeem Haltom, and his students also helped weed, water and till the Rainbow Garden plot. Ms. Jamelia Simon help by donating hundreds of starter veggie plants. During the Brown and Green Community Day she was able to recruit lots of volunteers to help plant. Liz Gabriel, the new director of Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, was a valuable resource. I also would like to thank the ICG community members who helped water and weed when we weren’t able to do so.

TS: What was the Brown and Green event?
OA: The Brown and Green Community Day was part of Earth Day this past Spring. It was initiated by ¡Cultura Ithaca! and was meant to engage more Latinos in the environmental movement. However, it wasn’t just the Latino community. People were unified from all backgrounds and walks of life – African Americans, Latinos, Caucasian, Muslims, Burmese, and Jewish descent, many who had never been to the ICG.

TS: Who else was involved with the Brown and Green Community Day?
OA: Many other participants made this event successful. The seedlings donated by Jamelia Simon, mentioned above, helped get the garden going. Kay’s Rare Cati and Succulents participated as a vendor, driving 75 miles round trip, to support us on such a chilly day. Elan Shapiro, RHC of America volunteers, Ithaca College and Cornell students, Lehman Alternative Community School students and many more. RHC of America was also there with their community drummers. And we hosted and sponsored Young Entrepreneurs who started their business at 13. This is a crocheting business and they were selling their products. I greatly appreciate all of our volunteers and supporters.

TS: What was the overall impact of the event?
OA: Brown and Green Community Day great success and we need more events like this more often, not just once every year. It felt like family, everybody talking, eating and helping. It was like paradise!

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This is the latest installment in the Signs of Sustainability series produced by Sustainable Tompkins. Tom Shelley organizes and coordinates the series.

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