Harvest at the De Facto Delinelle Community Park and Garden

Last week, I received an invite from Torsten Hermann to attend the harvest shindig put on by him and his gang of guerrilla gardeners in St. Henri. I looked forward to seeing if he and his crew had gone ahead with their plans to put in a patio and move their compost pit so that more neighbours could enjoy the greenery. I wasn't sure that our intrepid green warriors would go to this extra trouble after the lot owners had suddenly appeared one day last summer threatening to put up a fence and build on the site. Their pave-paradise-and-put-up-a-parking-lot rant really put a damper on the troops, who nevertheless soldiered on until harvest.

True to his word, Torsten had gone ahead with plans to move the compost. When I arrived at the gathering, I immediately noticed a poster of a young Brad Pitt in the new compost area. When I asked Torsten about it, he laughed and told me that the fans of Brad Pitt said that he was the garden's protector, while the detractors referred to Pitt as the garden's scarecrow. Those who were indifferent simply called this area the Brad "Compost" Pitt.

I arrived at the start of the party, and there were already about 20 people, complete with music, barbecues, and from what I could see, plenty of food. I was introduced to a few of the gardeners and met up with Carlos Robinson-Alvarez again. His wife Miriam had joined Torsten's gardening group this year. Robinson-Alvarez told me that he had moved to this neighbourhood 15 years ago from a very clean suburb. He said that the first thing that he and his wife saw was a women throwing her garbage out of her third-floor window onto the street on a non-garbage day. He said that his wife cried for a week afterwards. The couple, who lives very close to the lot, also had a lot of problems in the past with seasonal allergies. It was only once Torsten and Fraser cleared the lot that their allergies magically disappeared.

The gathering on this sunless afternoon was surprisingly intergenerational and multilingual. There were neighbours in their sixties and some very young children from the hood. Torsten explained to me that just this week he had been approached by a few 7- and 8-year-olds who wanted to plant something. Torsten seems to have become the go-to man for gardening guidance. I reminded Torsten that when I had dropped by for the first time more than a year ago, this had been one of their initial goals--to get neighbourhood children involved in gardening and to start a daycare. It looks like they are close to reaching that goal.

The boys' guerrilla gardening project has been a resounding success in terms of bringing people together, creating a sense of community and beautifying a neighbourhood that was indeed in need of some TLC. Torsten told me that when he moved into this neighbourhood 15 years ago, there was a strong police presence.

"Things are better now," he said, "There has been some gentrification, but in general, people want to enjoy the neighbourhood and make the most of what they have."

When I asked him what his plans were for next year, he said that they still planned to expand the existing garden if other gardeners wanted to join their group. Judging by the number of people joining the party on that cloud-covered fall day, I expect there will be a few more.

Previous posts on the Delinelle Community Park and Garden:
Delinelle Park and Garden: Adjectival Transgression
The Fate of the Delinelle Community Garden and Park
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Trespassers in St. Henri Win City Gardening Contest

Related posts:
Liz Christy Seed Bombs and Some Not So Covert Bombing
Attention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
What Exactly is Guerrilla Gardening?
Guerrilla Gardening: Tips for the Novice


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