THE MOBILE GARDEN
a community green space on wheels for education, creativity, and neighborhood engagement
The concept of a mobile garden emerged from an interaction with a neighborhood kid named Gavin. He consistently shows up to the evening activities hosted by House Life Project (HLP), a community of artists and residents who use abandoned houses to create art inspired by the neighborhood on the Near Eastside. On an afternoon intended for painting signs, Gavin showed up with a plastic cup full of soil and freshly sprouted grass. He was more interested in his grass than helping paint the signs, so the evening was spent talking about plants and what they need to grow.
One focus of HLP is to explore the realities of mobility and vacancy within a neighborhood and, with that in mind, take on the challenge of making mobile and accessible the activities that would be deemed impossible in certain areas. Inspired by this idea we created a mobile garden that is used for education, creativity, and neighborhood engagement on the Near Eastside, while shedding light on the broader issue of food insecurity that the residents living on the Near Eastside face every day*.
The Mobile Garden Center (MGC) includes:
Garden beds: a bike trailer, a wagon, and a shopping cart all converted into garden beds. They each have attachable trellises and hoop houses.
Wash station: a push-cart to store tools and garden equipment and wash harvested produce.
Rain barrel: a large trashcan on wheels.
Compost cart: constructed from wood and attached to a bike trailer.
GOALS + VISION
entrepreneurship skills — holistic wellness — food security — youth development
The mobile garden is a hyper-local and relational way to engage youth and their families in learning how to grow their own food and keep active outdoors. It makes gardening and growing food less daunting and more accessible, while encouraging entrepreneurship skills and holistic wellness. There are two ways the mobile garden hopes to expand: Pop-up Workshops and Young Entrepreneurs Program.
Pop-Up Workshops — designed to engage youth in the community in an approachable and relational way, meeting them where they are. Workshop topics will include: how to start seeds, transplanting, pruning, harvesting, cooking and preparing food, soil health, and more. April through October the mobile garden will have a weekly schedule of “pop-up workshops” at the House Life Project, Spades Park Library, and the pocket parks of the Near Eastside.
Youth Entrepreneurs Program — designed to teach youth how to run their own mobile garden business. By the end of the course youth will learn how to:
- build their own garden and create a business model
- maintain their garden including how to plant, grow, and harvest.
- manage money and perform excellent customer service
The program will be offered in the summer, specifically June and July. To continue developing their skills during the school year youth will have the option to participate in the weekly pop-up workshops at HLP and Spades Park Library.
*The House Life Project partners with the City’s land bank, Renew Indy, and is given access to a vacant house in the Saint Clair Place neighborhood. When that house is bought or sold or has plans to be demolished, HLP packs up and moves into a new vacant house, usually just down the street. That being said, the MGC is mostly a stationary garden center, only moving when HLP is moved to a new location.
Where are you at with the solution? Already implemented and trying to expand or improve upon
Why might this be a valuable solution for Indy?
The mobile garden is innovative in its approach, in that it is mobile, hyper-local, and relational, it exposes youth to the importance of local food production and personal nutrition and wellness, and can be replicated in each participant’s personal context.
The mobile garden is something that a) is inexpensive to start, b) does not require a degree, and c) generates revenue through the Youth Entrepreneurs Program, all of which promote sustainability. No electricity, synthetic fertilizer, or pesticides are used, creating an environmentally sustainable model. This equitable and responsible project adds to the cultural competency of the community and to the lives of the people living within it, embedding a social sustainability from the beginning.
What resources, advice or support would be helpful for you in moving forward?
I am looking for resources to develop a curriculum for the Young Entrepreneurs Program. In addition to that, I am trying to piece together an “advisory board” to help me think strategically about the next steps for this project. Those people could be (but aren’t limited to): an educator/teacher, point person at host sites, implementer, innovator — someone to help think big picture, and volunteers.
Lead contact: Bailey Shannon