Seeds for the Heart in the Inner City

Article excerpt

A PATCH OF ED TYPE:AMERICA'S INNER-CITY GARDENERS

By H. Patricia Hynes

Chelsea Green Publishing 185 pp., $18.95 A weed wouldn't dare show its head in these gardens! Anyone who still thinks of gardening as a frivolous hobby should read Patricia Hynes's deeply absorbing and compassionate book, "A Patch of Eden." With a researcher's eye for detail and a keen sense of social justice, Hynes, a professor of environmental health at Boston University, traces the development of community gardens in neglected urban areas of Harlem, North Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. These gardens have been hacked out of abandoned lots or reclaimed from public parks not by official mandate, but through the efforts of individuals, many of them women. Hynes introduces community activists such as Cathrine Sneed, who started an eight-acre farm at the San Francisco County Jail. "The Garden Project," as it is known, teaches inmates how to plant, cultivate, and distribute organic produce to several well-known restaurants and homeless shelters in the area. Sneed is convinced that learning to care for plants can change people's perceptions of themselves and others. …