Thursday, October 17, 2013

Community Gardens in Salta, Argentina

By Linda and Sandy Grimwade

We are spending 6 weeks doing volunteer work in the city of Salta in northwest Argentina. It is a beautiful old colonial Spanish city with about 700,000 inhabitants. Situated at an altitude of about 4,500 feet in the foothills of the Andes, and only 90 miles from the Tropic of Capricorn, the city has a wonderful climate of mostly warm dry days and pleasantly cool nights. It is springtime, and trees are coming into leaf, bulbs are flowering and the barrows on street corners are full of wonderfully flavorful strawberries. Despite this favorable climate and pleasant situation, there are significant areas of the city where signs of poverty and poor nutrition are clearly visible.

Sandy giving a lesson on plants in Spanish
Under the auspices of the city government, we have started a project to introduce education about the benefits of home gardening, and to build small vegetable gardens in “comedores” -- food kitchens run by local people to give children in poor areas at least one good meal per day. The Argentine diet is heavy on protein, carbohydrate, and, increasingly, sugar, but fruits and vegetables are quite expensive, and there is little tradition of growing your own. Armed with materials from Philadelphia Master Gardeners and the Harvest for Health program (thanks to Jackie Simon), Sandy, with Linda’s help gave his first of 4 talks, in Spanish, to about 20 children and 12 parents in one of the comedores a few days ago. We then helped the excited kids to plant tomato, pepper and squash seeds in potting soil-filled cups, started cleaning out an area about 3 feet by 9 feet and building a low wall for a raised bed. 
Children with their pots of seeds

Over the next few weeks we are planning more short talks on caring for a small vegetable garden and will plant seeds of herbs, beans, chard and other greens, as well as setting out the seedlings once they have grown. We hope we will leave here with small gardens growing at several of the comedores and a group of enthusiastic helpers to keep them going. We are also planning to introduce some tasty vegetable recipes.

It is gratifying to be able to share our Master Gardener knowledge with parents and children who are so enthusiastic and willing to become involved.

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