October 28, 1992
By Yolanda Reynolds
Mi Tierra, the ﬁrst community garden established in San Jose, has from its ﬁrst days inspired thoughtful reflection about the really important things in life.
When the garden was opened over 15 years ago the entry dedication stated:
En honor de nuestros padres
se creó este parque
respételo y sus hijos lo
respetarán a usted.
(This garden was created in honor of our parents respect it and your children will in turn respect you).
That sentiment permeates the attitude of the gardeners, not only to the garden, but towards each other. Upon learning that the garden was to be destroyed and used for another purpose one of the gardeners, who happened to be European American, with tears in his eyes related how that garden was “where she had found her family.”
She explained that she worried for her young children and, at the garden she felt safe not only for herself, but for her children- where the other gardeners genuinely cared for her welfare and that of her children.
The garden inspires a sense of community, with space set aside for the children to play and each garden reflecting the individuality of the gardener. ln almost every plot there is that special vegetable or herb that makes the loss of this garden even more poignant.
To lose that quality at a time when there are so many forces within our cities that tend to destroy communities, makes the loss of this garden even more poignant.
Since some leaders in City Hall announced several months ago that they planned to close down the garden at Tenth St. and E. Alma in order to make room for a pair of ice rinks, the value and importance of the garden has been brought into sharp focus.
One of the gardeners and of the leaders working very hard to keep the garden there, is Gil Juaregui. He recently wrote a poem about the garden.
Un Atardecer En Mi Tierra
Las nubes cargadas de amor dejan caer sy lluvia sobre la tierra y
La tierra con amor recibe la fresca lluvia.
El campesino con aprecio y celo cuida la tierra y le da su protección.
La tierra es como nuestra madre, nuestra nadre nos dio pecho y protección
Cuando éramos pequeños y ahora que somos adultos la tierra nos da su fruto para poder vivir.
Pore so yto la idolatro, la respeto y deseo sea porque la tierra
Es como nuestra madre que está en el mundo para producer no para ser,
Destruída, ya que aquel que destruya la tierra es como si destruyera su propia madre.
A noted sculptor and artist who came to the garden, says that he has not been able to take the image of the garden out of his mind and finds himself putting those images on canvas. He has completed one painting and has several others in progress.
The gardeners recently met with City Council representatives George Shirakawa, in whose district the gardens are located.
It has been Council policy, that the resident Council person has enormous inﬂuence on the land uses that are proposed in their District.
Council Shirakawa promised that he would listen to the gardeners. He came to the garden and found the community room ﬁlled to standing room only with the gardeners. They had many concerns but quickly said that their one request was that the garden not be moved.
The gardeners asked, why not move the rink instead and suggested another site, the Tully stables, which are available.
According to reports in the local daily, a rink is needed for practice by the Shark Team. For reasons that are not very clear, the team will be unable to practice in the new $150+ million Arena. In addition, they report that if the team does not have a practice rink the team members will likely not live in San Jose. Supporters insist that only the gardens site can be used for the skating rink.
Many people disagree with this assessment, since there are many parcels of land that are city owned and are available. Ln addition, other property owners would very likely be interested in selling their land for such a venture.
Mr. Shirakawa who did not hear anything he had not heard before, indicated that he was leaving – only one family wanted to move. All of the rest of the gardeners told that family that they were welcome to leave, if that was their desire.
The woman who wanted to leave was very angry and asked that Shirakawa ban the Mi Tierra gardeners access to the new garden that the City has proposed; if the “gardeners do not cooperate NOW” with the City’s plan to move the garden to another location.
Shirakawa said that the city did not conduct business in that manner.
There are approximately 150 families who have plots at the garden. The garden is very productive and his estimated that the gardeners produce approximately 400 tons of vegetables each year.
Before Shirakawa was allowed to leave, the gardeners said that they had one question to ask of him, which was printed on a large board. It asked if he was planning to help move them, or if he would help them keep the garden as it is in its present location.
A pin could be hear in the dead silence that followed the question, which was read aloud. Shirakawa, after a short silence, responded that he was going to work at “alternatives” to the current location of Mi Tierra.
Kathy Chavez Napoli then asked several times, “in other words you will not help the gardeners stay here?” Each time Mr. Shirakawa said that he would work to find an alternative site. It became clear that the dialogue had come to a standstill and the meeting ended.
By the time the meeting ended the sun had set and the moon was rising in the southern sky. The blue white light of the moon illuminated the garden walkways, with the tall corn stalks casting lacy shadows throughout the garden. The corn stalks are so high that the city surrounds them is lost in the darkness.
The peace, quiet and beauty of the gardens was punctuated by the quiet but determined remarks of the gardeners, who, though disappointed continued to ﬁght on to keep the garden at its present site.
For more information on Mi Tierra you may contact the gardeners at 227-8111 or George Shirakawa at his City Council office 277-5226. © La Oferta Newspaper.