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by Slow Food USA Staffer Julia De Martini Day
photo by Slow Food USA Staffer Cecily Upton

The first thing I wanted to do after arriving in San Francisco from Brooklyn, NY the Tuesday before Slow Food Nation was visit the Victory Garden. When I got to the front of the garden I saw a sign above the small entrance gate – Victory Garden hours, 9am-4pm. “Shoot, I missed it,” I thought to myself. But before I turned away, a woman walked in front of me and opened the gate, “Come in,” she said. “It’s open.”

It was a beautiful, sunny, and quiet afternoon, and the garden was empty. The woman offered to show me around, pointing out the native species and medicinal sections. She noted the translation of certain vegetable names into Spanish and told me how she had been coming here every day since it opened, and eating food from the garden, too. In the middle of the garden, between lettuce, kale, and rainbow chard, she opened a composition book and began humming a song she had written about the garden. In a way it read as a list of everything growing, but it also had a chorus reminiscent of “this land is your land, this land is my land.”

“This is our garden, a place for you and me. This is our garden, where we come to be.”

I knew the Victory Garden was producing food for a food bank and growing all kinds of wonderful things, but I hadn’t imagined it would also be generating community ownership from neighborhood residents. I’m sure not everyone living nearby felt this way, but this one woman’s poetry was a beautiful symbol of how the garden was contributing more than just food to the city.