Part of our mission as a group of community members interested in developing an urban ecovillage is to, first and foremost, address basic human needs for survival by encouraging the growth of community gardening and urban agriculture initiatives in the city of Syracuse. 

In 2008 Under Co-Founder Elizabeth Slate, Alchemical brought together a collaboration of local stakeholders and organizations that are already gardening and 
promoting local foods systems in the city such as Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Syracuse Real Food Co-op, Syracuse Community Geography, the SUNY-ESF Landscape  Architecture department, Edible Gardening CNY, CNY Plantcycle, and the Syracuse Hunger Project.  This coalition coalesced into Syracuse Grows, Syracuse's city-wide community gardening resource organization - which has functioned since its inception as a fiscally sponsored project of The Glossary Link Alchemical Nursery

In 2009, Alchemical accepted the Hawley-Green Vegetable Garden as another fiscally sponsored project as we continued to facilitate community garden development in Syracuse.  In 2010, fiscally sponsored project B.E.A.N. helped revitalize the Kwanzaa Community Garden on the Southside of Syracuse - which after years of neglect - once again became a productive garden resource for city residents.

In 2011, Alchemical initiated the Rahma Edible Forest Snack Garden Project, which included a community based open design contest, at 3100 South Salina St to bridge the mission of the free health clinic and the desert of food snacking options available to the local neighborhood.

Alchemical also teamed with the Cornell Coopertaive Extension and the Finger Lakes Glossary Link Permaculture Institute to offer the Community Training in Ecological Design permaculture based educational course, the first of its kind in Syracuse, during the Winter of 20122, and continued for a second year during the Winter of 2013.
2013 ia also scheduled to bring with it the development of a second community-bassed edible forest garden, thanks to money received as the winning entry in the Summer 2012 Crowdsourced/funded Salt City DISHES award.

Our efforts in promoting these programs are initially to address what we see as a serious lack in existing infrastructure, friendly policy and government support, and education in food-related self sufficiency and food justice issues. Here are some of the challenges we outlined in 2008 at the start of our organizing efforts after initial research:   

1) The lack of a consistent basis of garden tenders. A fluctuating volunteer base means that some years for a specific community garden may be more successful than 
others. By providing an organizational framework and funding, all community gardens in the city, either already established or newly forming, have the potential to 
receive help from paid workers in collaboration with other grassroots, social service and economic development organizations to establish and maintain the gardens. 

2) Another concern for the community gardens is appearance. Many people might find a fallow field in the wintertime to be an eyesore. A nicely landscaped garden with fruit trees and shrubs in addition to plots for growing vegetables, along with the incorporation of pathways and sculpture, will ensure that the gardens are beautiful year-round, and considered by all as assets to the surrounding neighborhood and community. 

3) Yet another concern is irrigation of the gardens. The provision of rain barrels and cisterns can address this potential limiting factor for potential garden sites. In addition, all aspects of community gardening provide green solutions to our stormwater management issues, by processing rainwater runoff from impermeable surfaces that would otherwise overload city sewer systems. The sewage overflow problem in cities that lack adequate green space is oftentimes addressed by constructing costly water treatment plants rather than by acknowledging the need for more permeable and green urban infrastructure and implementing green infrastructure strategies on a city-wide scale. Green infrastructure has been proven to reduce the heat island effect of largely paved urban landscapes, thereby also reducing energy bills in summertime. The 
sustainable solution that is green infrastructure saves money and the environment.

4) We also work to encourage people to garden in their own backyards, a natural extension of the city-wide community gardening network's efforts, by 
providing educational information, networking and resources, and grants for individual homeowners to plant edible landscapes in their front and backyards. This is an 
extension of the Food Not Lawns movement, and an important step to take in addressing issues of food security.  Alchemical's Permaculture related educational and skill share programming is primarily geared towards the development of these perennial food systems within human residential landscapes.

5) Rooftop gardening and greenhouses will be other important and necessary strategies to maximize local food production, addressing the need for fresh locally grown 
produce and concerns about transportation costs for imported produce. Using livestock as a source of fertilizer and additional capacity building production on site is an 
option that needs further exploration and championing with local policy makers.

6) Another important project related to community gardening will be the involvement of school children in the gardening projects in their area. The potential partnership 
and additional opportunity for capacity building in this aspect, in addition to the educational programming associated with gardening lots and greenhouses for schools, 
would involve the selling of food produced on these sites to the schools for use in their cafeterias.

7) The long-term goal of Alchemical's community gardening initiatives, aside from beautifying the neighborhoods and providing green solutions to our stormwater management issues, is to create an urban CSA (community supported agriculture) network, where produce harvested from these lots will be redistributed throughout the neighborhoods to those who buy a share in the program on a weekly basis. 


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