When you think of a fire station, you’re probably used to images like this:
But what if I told you about a very special fire station that has something most don’t – a garden!
Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to the hard-working members of the C Shift, at Fire Station 1 in downtown Albuquerque:
Very nice people, too!
I first met Captain Emily Kane earlier in the summer, when I approached her about building a garden. I got the idea from my good friend Judie, who lives in Bloomington, Indiana. Judie told me that Bloomington is the only city in the country to have gardens at every fire station. That’s due to the efforts by Abundant Harvest Farms. You can read about Bloomington’s gardens by clicking here.
I thought, what a wonderful idea! Firefighters often cook for themselves, so having access to fresh food would promote healthier eating. Plus, they have to buy their own groceries, so a garden could help them save a little money. And also, gardening is a nice, therapeutic way to counteract the difficult job they have. (I had already learned about a nationwide program to take veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and teach them how to farm as a way to help heal their PTSD – it’s a brilliant idea, because working with the soil is healing.)
I started thinking about the idea of building container gardens throughout the city – wouldn’t it be awesome if we could build some at homeless shelters, at missions, maybe even in city parks? (Portland grows fruits and vegetables in its parks, so that anyone who is hungry can have access to food.) Hunger in Albuquerque is a very real problem, and building container gardens would be a fantastic way to begin to combat it.
So I made an appointment to speak with one of the city’s landscape architects, presented my ideas to her, and she basically laughed me out of her office. She made it very clear that the city would not be spending money on gardens. The dream of collaborating with the city died that day.
I decided to go down and introduce myself to the people at the station closest to my house. That’s when I met Captain Emily, and found out she was the same Emily Kane who had been fighting the city to keep her job as a state representative. (Click here to read more about her efforts.) Luckily for the citizens of Albuquerque, she won her fight against the city. So she’s both a firefighter and a state representative.
Turns out, she’s also a gardener.
We walked around the station looking for the best place to put a garden, and I told her that the roof was the best spot. It was flat, had easy access (no ladders to climb), there would be abundant sunshine, it would be safe from downtown vandals, and it would be relatively easy to run irrigation lines to it.
Lemme tell ya, those guys took the garden idea and ran with it. They built the containers themselves, they got soil from Soilutions in the South Valley themselves. I got the plants donated to them by Kathi at Rio Valley Greenhouse (Kathi also sells plants at the downtown growers’ market on Saturdays and at the Railyards market on Sundays), they went down to the greenhouse and picked out what they wanted to grow. Some of the guys brought plants in from their own gardens. Under Emily’s leadership, they built themselves a rooftop garden. And it was awesome. Here’s what it looked like back in July:
Everything was growing very well. The squash bugs did manage to find their way to the roof, unfortunately, but everything else was growing like crazy. Emily told me they’d been using the herbs and veggies in their meals.
But like most city-related things lately, if it’s working well, someone will feel compelled to put an end to it (like the Railyard market – that’s going away, too, despite being wildly popular with the residents of the city and successful for the vendors).
Someone(s) caught wind of the fire station garden and apparently didn’t like it. Maybe their feelings were hurt that they weren’t consulted before it was built. Maybe they don’t like that it was at Emily’s station. Who knows. But they sent city officials over to dismantle the garden. The firefighters were told it was a insurance liability issue – people weren’t allowed on the roof. They were going to pull the plants out and everything, but the firefighters on duty that day protested, and saved the garden. They moved each of the containers downstairs.
So the garden survived the petty political motivations of the current administration – the same officials who lost their fight with Emily. What kind of jerk do you have to be to threaten to rip out a garden? What harm could growing your own food possibly cause? Grrr! In my opinion, it’s madness. We ought to be encouraging more gardens, not punishing those who have them.
I, for one, am super proud of everyone at the station – for building the garden, then protecting it. Emily said it’s become a point of pride for the whole station, not just the C Shift members.
Because they’ve been having a rough time with the city about their garden, I decided to appeal to all of you for help. I’m going to ask you to call or write the mayor’s office, and show support for fire station gardens. You could just say that it’s a great idea, and that the city should commend them. Or you could ask them to build gardens for any fire station that wants one.
Here’s the mayor’s contact info:
Mayor Richard Berry: email@example.com, 505-768-3000
You can also contact the spokesperson for the Fire Department:
Melissa Romero: firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-768-9317
If you’re local, call 311 and tell them what you think.
And for the heck of it, I’ll give you the contact info for the city’s Municipal Development Department:
Michael Riordan: email@example.com , 505-768-3830
I would appreciate your help, dear readers. Again, we should be encouraging this type of behavior, not trying to ruin it.
Let’s remember that firefighters have dedicated their adult lives to helping people. We should be on their side, not battling with them.
Look at this crew – how could you not want to support them?
Please call or email! Let’s flood city offices with support for the garden!