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Cultivating Place: Tools For Building A Home In This World: Homeless Garden Project - Santa Cruz, CA

The Homeless Garden Project

As we continue our exploration into creativity born of the garden –I share with you today a story and model for creativity coupled with kindness. On Cultivating Place, I talk a lot about gardens, gardeners, and gardens as intersectional agents and spaces of powerful potential & positive change in our world.  While I see this as true in most of my interviews, this episode with the regenerative humans of the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz brings this truth to life more poignantly and tangibly than most. 


In July, thanks to the many efforts and encouragement of Homeless Garden Project Board Member Dana Rhine, I had the great pleasure of making a full-day field trip to the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz, California, where for 30 years a team of dedicated citizens and professionals have been putting the diverse lessons and heart of gardening to work to help offset the many challenges of homelessness in our world. John traveled with me and through the course of the day, we joined morning circle time with the staff and trainees, toured the current garden – full of flowers and fruit, migrating monarchs, seasonal vegetables and an abundance of fresh air, a stone’s throw from the ocean. 


I had the good fortune to speak with all the people there in the Homeless Garden Project working Farm that day – from long-time trainees to new ones - timidly, skeptically, hopefully - looking into the program; from the volunteer cook who every Tuesday brings the staff and trainees a morning snack and then prepares a hearty lunch for them to share together family-style, to the full -time year-round staff, to CSA shareholders – and you will hear a bit from all of them in this episode.



Credit The Homeless Garden Project


Throughout, Executive Director Darrie Ganzhorn and others speak a lot about "structure” - and the symbolic importance of structure is not lost on me. 


Structure is simultaneously the form of a physical home, a container for and within our gardens, a scaffolding on which we try to build our days, our families, and our lives. 


The layers of language – such as the denotation and connotation of structure – comes up for me here. How important it is that we understand the impact of all of our words – how certain words or phrases, when we unpack them or really hear them – for instance the difference between hearing “homeless person” versus “person experiencing homelessness” - changes the power and the emphasis completely. 


It is never too late to listen to and hear our own word choices more clearly – how they confer dignity, respect, and equity, versus not doing any these things. How we tend our words is a direct manifestation of how we tend ourselves, our own gardens, and one another.


The Homeless Garden Project is modeling structure and structural integrity - how we support, shelter, and hold each other up in the world.


It is never too late to grow a better world. Listen in!

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Jennifer Jewell is the creator and host of the national award-winning, weekly public radio program and podcast, Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History & the Human Impulse to Garden, Jennifer Jewell is a gardener, garden writer, and gardening educator and advocate. Particularly interested in the intersections between gardens, the native plant environments around them, and human culture, she is the daughter of garden and floral designing mother and a wildlife biologist father.
Matt Fidler is a producer and sound designer with over 15 years’ experience producing nationally distributed public radio programs. He has worked for shows such as Freakonomics Radio, Selected Shorts, Studio 360, The New Yorker Radio Hour and The Takeaway. In 2017, Matt launched the language podcast Very Bad Words, hitting the #28 spot in the iTunes podcast charts.