One may say, “He who does not cultivate his field will die of hunger.” This excerpt from a Guinean proverb stimulates most gardeners inside the Kentucky Garden, at West 32nd Street and Franklin Boulevard in Ohio City. This is the second oldest community garden in Cleveland (the oldest being the Ben Franklin in Old Brooklyn), taking shape in the late 1800s. Today, Kentucky is an organic garden with 155 plots and 133 gardeners.
Among the gardeners is a group of individuals from Metanoia Project, based at St. Malachi Parish in Ohio City, who are drawn together by a shared love for the community and a desire to find a pathway from homelessness. Through gardening, the Metanoia team receives a stipend; in some ways, the Kentucky Garden is a lucrative oasis via the average layman.
Megan Crow, executive director of Metanoia, wanted to collaborate with Kentucky Garden to address the psychological needs of those in the homeless community, while using nature as a way of communicating change. Megan sees the views of both the garden and Metanoia as being aligned in building a diverse community that includes neighbors of varying socioeconomic backgrounds.
I attend the garden every Saturday around 12:30 p.m. as part of the Metanoia Project. The garden allows you to meditate with and among people from all over the world. If earthworms and turtle doves can coexist among one another, then each and every one of us can cultivate and reap a harvest by sowing a seed in the garden of this universe.
Among the people I have met is Michael Mishaga. I like to call him an engineer of many gardens because he is highly valued by everyone at the Kentucky Garden. His firm belief in rich, naturally produced soil keeps him humble enough to dedicate the services he provides to others. Michael asks the participants each Saturday what it is we are zealous about. I know for me, I learned what I was missing: time to cultivate self. Michael is our professor and the garden is our kinesthetic learning laboratory.
Michael agrees that being in a community garden unites neighbors. We are all bound by a certain philosophy: to create a peaceful atmosphere, respect all things within nature, grow from within, show tolerance and enjoy the wisdom from being inside this field of work.
Anyone may come to the garden once you have joined the community. Benefits include shared crops and equipment, and the chance to enjoy a fresh atmosphere under the sun’s rays. This old Kentucky Garden, along with the collaborative efforts of the Metanoia Project, gives hope to many, including those of us looking to emerge from chronic homelessness.
Editor’s Note: Metanoia Project is one of 36 nonprofits participating in Cleveland’s first-ever citywide Giving Tuesday campaign — brought to you by WISH Cleveland. Find out how you can donate, sponsor and/or participate in this cause, which seeks to create a more equitable future in our city, here.