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by Intern Howard Lanney

Can a brand new Slow Food chapter take root in under a year? Sure can, says Rob McDaniel of the new Slow Food Crossroads chapter in Alabama. “We’ve accomplished the goal,” Rob says, “we’ve gotten people interested in local sustainable foods that they’re growing themselves.” Such momentum is exciting coming from any chapter, but considering Slow Food Crossroads is less than a year old Rob’s news is particularly encouraging. And Rob’s assessment is right on: his chapter has organized an incredibly successful community garden program that has been met with huge demand in the small lake community of Alexander City, Alabama.

The community garden started out with the realization that something was off. “I asked how many people grew up with a garden and everybody raised their hand,” says Rob, “but when I asked ‘how many people have a garden now?’ less than 25% put their hand up.” Furthermore, the chapter comes from an area where the best bet for produce is a Wal-Mart fifteen minutes away. The chapter quickly approved a project to build ten raised bed plots, but demand was so high the number soon jumped to eighteen, as many as could fit in the allotted space.

Now the gardens are full of activity, with up to 35 community members enjoying its bounty. To Rob, the success grew naturally. “I didn’t have to do a lot because everyone wanted to be a part of it,” McDaniel says, attributing the popularity to a small community where word spreads fast. Rob’s chapter also makes a point of including all community members, even those who are not a part of Slow Food USA. Regardless, Rob finds that “people who join see what their work is doing, and become closer to Slow Food.”

While the quick success of the Slow Food Crossroads’ work is exciting, the chapter hasn’t let it distract them from the larger goal. “One day it could all go to factory farms,” McDaniel says, “if we let go of gardening, it opens the door even wider for factory farms to take over and make decisions for us. The raised bed program has helped people become aware of this.”