By Katie Sobiech
Alex Miller, Co-Founder of Akron Urban Gardens, and life-long Akron resident, isn’t just talk, but has put his community dreams into action through the Y-Bridge Memorial Community Garden.
Recently graduating from Akron University with a degree in Urban Planning and a focus on food policy and planning, he has set his mind towards cultivating unity and beautification in Cascade Village through gardening.
“All the issues that surround that –the whole arena – including urban agriculture – has melted my butter for years,” Miller said.
This passion led him and his Co-Founder, Dana Starvazi, in creating Akron Urban Gardens, under which the Y-Bridge memorial falls.
“This project came about because a good friend of mine, David, and I knew someone who lost their life to the Y-Bridge,” Miller shared.
“The Y-Bridge used to be one of the number one suicide spots in Akron and they put up a fence. The city got a bunch of money to put up a fence on the bridge to detour future people from jumping off,” Miller explained.
“Because we’d known someone who jumped off and knew that people were doing this we wanted to come up with some type of memorial to the victims,” he continued, “We thought of the various things we could do and thought ‘why not do this through food’?”
Food production, to be exact.
Getting it Together
“We went through Victims Assistance, got organized, got a grant last year and kind of cultivated the relationship with Cascade Village and did the initial install last year,” Miller explained.
Within one year they have planted about 65 fruit trees, and put in a large 80 by 20 foot garden, including raised beds and perennial bushes.
“We cleaned it up down there,” Miller said of their work.
“Now, moving forward, we’re trying to cultivate the relationship with Cascade Village – the stakeholders and residents, so they can grow food in the garden. So they can take place in the community. Cascade village has been very supportive of that,” Miller said.
“We have Donna Webb who’s a ceramics professor at Akron U and is on sabbatical this year. She’s been working with the kids down there,” Miller said.
Local residents from Cascade Village been involved since their start one year ago, and even more are showing interest to help in the future.
“We’re inclusive of everybody. We’d like to create a micro-urban farm down there. We’re continuing to cultivate relationship with Cascade Village so residents there take full advantage of the garden,” Miller said.
In the future they would even like to incorporate permaculture.
“Permaculture is an idea that I’d like to carry on. Moving forward I would like to use some of the principles of it,” Miller shared.
In his own words “Permaculture is a designed system with the basic principles to take care of the earth and each other and stack your functions (do multiple things at once). Think ‘permanent culture’ – it incorporates and leans on agriculture a lot. It’s an interaction between all different types of systems. It’s such a broad subject.”
But for now, they are focusing on growing what they have.
“We have close to 85 members. That’s a lot of people interested in growing things, community agriculture, and just beautifying the area,” he said.
“Come down and experience gardening!”
Find more information go to: http://www.facebook.com/AkronUrbanGardens