FGS Receives $3200 Grant from MHFNT for History Project
FGS President Mike Mennonno accepting the 2012 grant award from the Trust.
FGS received a generous grant from the Mission Hill/Fenway Neighborhood Trust Wednesday for its 70th Anniversary History Project. Fenway Garden Society President Mike Mennonno accepted the grant and thanked the Trust for its continued support of FGS. In past years the Trust has funded events like the Fourth of July Picnic and Phase One Construction of the Fenway Teaching Garden.
Following is narrative of the winning grant:
Proposal and Goals
The mission of the Fenway Garden Society is to encourage the interest and cooperation of all gardeners in the Richard D. Parker Memorial Victory Gardens, to promote gardening techniques and principles to gardeners and the public, and to act as stewards of the parkland on which it operates. All partnerships and programming focus on three aspects of stewardship: of parkland, community, and legacy.
Our parkland stewardship embraces the responsible and sustainable use of the whole seven acres on which our 500 plots, three compost stations, ADA-compliant accessible garden, public herb garden, teaching garden and in-the-works teaching apiary are situated. Programming on sustainable practices, composting, soil, and growing methods is offered throughout the season, both onsite and in conjunction with partners.
Community stewardship embraces the philosophy that “those who hoe together grow together”. We invite members and the wider community to six Community Participation Days from April through October, which incorporate a work component, an educational component, and a social component.
Stewardship of our legacy is about honoring the history of our gardens and growing them forward together. We do this by documenting and publicizing our work (our records are archived at the Massachusetts Historical Society), and recruiting and educating new members and giving them the resources and community they need to succeed, providing them with opportunities to share what they have learned and pass it on. All events and programming seek to foster a robust community of knowledge sharing and lifelong learning.
In 2010 we focused on much-needed capital improvements for a year of parkland stewardship. In 2011 the MHFNT enabled us to build our Teaching Garden, the center of our community stewardship initiative that has allowed us this year, for the first time in memory, to offer a full season-long schedule of educational events and programming to our members and friends free of charge.
2012 is a very special year for us. The Fenway Victory Gardens, first established in 1942 by the War Food Administration, turn seventy! Founded as a World War II victory garden, it was one of over 20 million victory gardens responsible for nearly half of all fresh produce on the home front during the war. In May of 1943 Life Magazine called gardening for the war effort “the greatest outdoor fad since miniature golf.” Unfortunately, Life had it right: the victory gardens were a fad. After the war, the movement very quickly waned. Today only two of those 20 million original WWII victory gardens are known to remain: Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, and our own Richard D. Parker Memorial Victory Gardens.
Situated on seven acres of prime real estate in the heart of the Fenway, considered unsightly squatters on Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace by some, our continued existence was never assured. In fact, far from it. Before gaining City of Boston Historic Landmark status, Fenway gardeners and Fenway friends and neighbors, had to fend off attempts to turn their paradise into a parking lot more than once. It took a sustained effort by a sustainable community to reach this seventy-year milestone.
It is the goal of the board and membership of the FGS, as stewards of this extraordinary legacy of community, to pass it on to future generations. We propose to do this in 2012 through a Fenway Victory Gardens History Project with the following components:
- Two events highlighting the FGS archives at the Massachusetts Historical Society;
- An audio tour of the Victory Gardens produced with technical support from WBUR, with interviews with some of our veteran gardeners that will be accessible online and via smart phone so that visitors can hear the stories of the gardens on virtual and onsite self-guided tours of the park;
- Three to five two-to-three-minute videos profiling our senior-most members, several of whom are in their nineties, to be shown at the Massachusetts Historical Society at an event in the fall and added to the archives for posterity;
- A late summer/early autumn educational exhibit in the lobby of the Johnson Building of the Central Library in Copley Square consisting of large panels with historic photos and text relating the past 70 years of community in the gardens and the Fenway.
This constellation of events and programs and, at least as importantly, the community process of coming together to pass on lived experience that will speak directly to future generations that the project represents, is a vital part of our stewardship mission in this special anniversary year. Our memories are an important (and – ironically – often forgotten) component of our stewardship of our communities. We must remember that memory, as Chilean novelist Isabelle Allende has written, “is fragile, and the space of a single life is brief, passing so quickly that we never get a chance to see the relationship between events; we cannot gauge the consequences of our acts, and we believe in the fiction of past, present, and future, but it may also be true that everything happens simultaneously.”
This project aims to bring a little of our past and present into the future in the hopes that our good stewardship may inspire community in the Fenway for at least another seventy years.