Think small. Planting tiny seeds in the small space given you can change the whole world or, at the very least, your view of it.
– Linus Mundy
I visited with Antonio Solorio last week, and on Friday. He is the Youth Program Coordinator with the National Park Service. I first met Antonio when he spoke at the Environmental Studies class taught by Bill Selby at SMC a few years ago. The title of his talk, “The Ethnobotany of Urban Home Gardens in East Los Angeles” was intriguing. His presentation was accompanied by interesting pictures of the gardens of his interviewees, and I the arrangement of their plants was unfamiliar to me. I was struck that they seemed to take a “plant anything anywhere” approach in their yards. I don’t recall seeing any linear beds of crops in neat rows. I liked what I saw, and realized that I could do the same at my house, planting beans and tomatoes or squash in the narrow space on the south side of my house, between my house and my neighbor. The focus of his research, his master’s thesis at Cal State Northridge, was analysis of the plants (foods, medicinal, and ornamental) growing in East LA. His gardeners were mostly middle-aged Mexican Americans as I recall.
I had wanted to talk to Antonio for a long time, so I included him on my Sabbatical list of interviewees. Because he works with high school students and motivates them to enjoy working outdoors, and perhaps for the Park Service in the future, I saw him as someone who could give me ideas about motivating college students (and faculty) about working with plants in our garden and integrating it into their courses.
The key, according to Antonio, is in the magic of the seed. He described seeing people young and old getting excited when they see seeds come to life. It’s something small but it has a very big effect. He suggested having students plant seeds. So simple. Maybe a planting party for everyone on campus can help reluctant people to see the potential of a college garden.
We had agreed to meet at his previous address in Culver City, so he could show me the results of his “guerrilla gardening” while he had lived there for about 5 years. I was impressed by the variety of fruit trees and native plants he has established, truly long term gifts to his old neighborhood: orange, apple, nopales, guava, and others.
If you’re interested in Antonio and his work, he was interviewed by youth radio, a couple years ago. The interview is available: http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm?programID=09-P13-00035&segmentID=4