The Scoop

Landship Foods is inspired by the conviction that growing and eating healthy food is one of the most important things we can do for both ourselves and the broader communities of which we are a part. The name comes from the language of pre-industrial Europe. Before the enclosure movement and the associated rise in notions of private property swept England, the suffix “-ship” (as in "relationship," or "friendship") referred to an object or an abstraction with collective duties and mutual rights. Thus, the term “landship” suggests that land was an entity through which humans were joined to each other by a set of rights and responsibilities. I advocate for a revival of this awareness.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Newtown Florist Club

Today I went with some peers from our service-learning class to the Newtown community of Gainesville, Georgia. There we met with some of the organizers of the Newtown Florist Club, a group of area residents who have been working for decades (actually, over half a century) to improve the living conditions in their neighborhood. They have recently organized a community garden campaign, and we were there to see the project, hear their stories, and help them with some planting.

Built in the 1930s, Newtown was a working-class, African-American neighborhood on the south side of Gainesville. In the 1950s, large industrial manufacturing facilities moved in next door: Purina, Cargill, and a junkyard. Both of the corporations have repeatedly leaked toxic substances into the air and soil of Newtown.

The Florist Club started out as a group of housewives who would collectively care for neighbors in need, bringing food, flowers, helping with chores. They soon noticed that illness was increasing, and in a particularly common guise. Over the next few decades doctors confirmed that clusters of cancer and lupus were present in abnormally high levels in Newtown. The organizer we spoke with today was a founding member of the Florist club in the 1950s at age 18. She lost her sister, brother-in-law, and a niece and nephew (both passed away while in high school) to cancer or lupus.

The Newtown Florist Club has accomplished a lot in their neighborhood, but as they suggest, there is much more work to do. I am proud to have put in some time working with such an earnest group this afternoon, but am sobered by the thought that there are lots of "Newtowns" out there. What did I learn in school today? Responsibility for preventing and improving "Newtowns" does not lie solely with those who are daily affected by the problems.

Shout-out to Nik Heynen for the photo