Once there was a tree … And she loved a little boy, a lot.
In a pub I met two young men, and after a short conversation with them, I gave one my business card. “I might want to tell your story,” I said to him. On August 17th, I sat with three young men in front of a historic barn and listened while they articulated their vision of service.
Ian Dante, Kaine and Brendan Roe are three twentysomethings who are engaged with life in various ways; Dante is a server at Buca di Beppo, Kaine (who prefers the single name) works at the coffeehouse 10 Johnson Avenue, and Roe, a trained chef, is currently delivering papers for the Indianapolis Star. All three attended Irvington Preparatory School, but that is not the only thread that ties them together. Every morning between 7 and 9 a.m., one or two of them gathers to nurture what they hope will be a self-sustainable community garden.
Dante had a friend who was mourning the loss of his grandmother and wanted to start a garden as a memorial to her. Ian reached out to Margaret Banning of the Irvington Development Organization to discuss ways to execute his idea. She put him in touch with Mary Jane Teeters-Eichacker, who listened to Dante’s idea and indicated that she had some land that he might be able to use, but he would first have to demonstrate trustworthiness and a willingness to work. Dante embarked on a mission to bring order to the land; meanwhile, the friend with whom he had originally hoped to collaborate in the building of the garden lost interest in it. Dante has no botanical or horticultural training outside of what he was exposed to at Irvington Prep, and “studied for one winter” — specifically the literature of Seattle Tilth, a non-profit organic gardening and urban ecology organization whose aim is to “(inspire) and (educate) people to safeguard … natural resources while building an equitable and sustainable local food system.” His research and labors bore fruit this spring and he recently signed a lease for the plot.
Kaine, who has known Dante since both were in grade school, has 10 years of experience with landscaping and gardening. Kaine’s associate was a neighbor of Ian’s and told Kaine about Ian’s garden. Shortly afterward, Kaine ran into Ian on the streets of Irvington and said, “I hear you have a garden …” Brendan Rowe, the third person in the gardening triad, shares Dante and Kaine’s passion for growing and gardening and “(giving) as much as you can” to others. And that “giving” is the other thing that links and drives these “soil brothers.”
All three of the young men are passionate about giving back, helping others and teaching those willing to learn a way to sow and reap for themselves. Brendan said that his father taught him to “go above and beyond,” and to “give as much as you can,” and that growing one’s own food is “therapeutic, and strengthens the soul.” Kaine believes that “the best moments are had in a garden and farm environment,” and Ian sees a future in helping schools get better food. For all three, the benefits of their labors come from giving to, and helping others. And eating foods grown by your own hands. In an informal gathering of their friends each Tuesday, the three cook meals with recipes that feature food from the garden. And though that garden is relatively small, it has been planted and nurtured to a fullness: pumpkin, squash, cucumber; three varieties of tomatoes and two varieties of basil; four varieties of lettuce, three varieties of green beans, three varieties of carrots, and beets. With chef Roe’s guidance, the three have developed eight recipes using their own produce.
The men look forward to having a true community garden that the neighborhood can participate in and to teaching young people the value and importance of “garden to table.” They have discussed fundraising possibilities with a band that is scheduled to perform during the Historic Irvington Halloween Festival. The band has decided to donate the proceeds of the gig to the garden. After a tour of the property and before I left, I asked Ian if the garden had a name. “The Giving Garden,” he said; “I always liked (Shel Silverstein’s) ‘The Giving Tree.’ ”
As for me. I was given the gift of squash, cucumber, tomatoes and two varieties of fresh basil, and a glance into a future of hope.
For more information, contact Ian via e-mail at Iandante101@yahoo.com. On Facebook, visit “The Giving Garden” (@gardenlicious).