CASA GRANDE — Daniel Oladokun-Dybowski isn’t giving up on his idea for a “green revolution” in Casa Grande.
But his plan to seed a community garden in Casa Grande — a place where people come together to exchange food, ideas and seeds while growing thriving crops of fruits and vegetables for the community — has hit a snag.
“We were rejected by the neighbors of the original community garden location,” he said.
Oladokun-Dybowski began working on his green revolution last year, hoping to transform a vacant lot between McMurray Boulevard and Laurel Drive into a community garden that would provide healthy food for the poor and improved food sustainability while teaching people organic gardening skills to improve their own backyard yields at home.
After the first location for the community garden didn’t work out, Oladokun-Dybowski, an anthropologist-turned-social worker, now has a new plan.
He’s been offered the use of a city-owned plot of land in downtown Casa Grande and he and his team of volunteers are working to establish the effort as a formal nonprofit organization and raise the money to get the project started.
“We have been offered a plot of land by the city of Casa Grande to beautify and cultivate using our free healthy food paradigm where we empower citizens of Casa Grande to learn, grow, propagate, proliferate and share seeds, plants, trees and knowledge,” Oladokun-Dybowski said.
The group is active on Facebook with two groups, Isa’s Garden LLC and Casa Grande Garden Group.
On the sites, people coordinate meet-up locations to exchange seeds, plants, trees and knowledge.
Oladokun-Dybowski believes that through social media, the community is already transforming into one of self-sustainable, self-reliant, backyard gardeners and food foresters.
“We may never really need a place to grow and share plants, but are nevertheless relentless in our pursuit to cultivate a plot of land to see our vision through,” he said.
The group is fundraising to establish Isa’s Garden LLC as a nonprofit organization, a step required by city officials before work can begin on the vacant lot, located on the northwest side of South Top and Bottom Street and First Avenue.
Oladokun-Dybowski has toured the plot and said he envisions it being transformed with raised bed boxes, various fruit trees and a thriving garden.
“My mind sees many people turning compost piles, watering plants, engaging in discussion as they each learn the process of cloning plants and trees together while breaking down racial, political and other mental barriers that separate us,” he said.
He also envisions the effort as teaching people to grow their own food and share healthy foods.
“In this day and age of food insecurity and food deserts, where every one in four children goes to school hungry, Pinal County needs a fresh look at the way we do things, and this community garden concept is new and refreshing,” he said. “By teaching people, and empowering them to think about plant propagation by freely obtaining cuttings, scions, root divisions, knowledge, etc., can have a longstanding effect on someone that they can take home with them to further research on their own about what else they might be able to clone one day.”
While some view gardening as a backyard hobby, Oladokun-Dybowski sees cultivating plants as a way for society to come together to address things like cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, COPD, depression, PTSD, social anxiety, social and political division and other issues.
Lessons learned while working in the community garden will help people in their own home gardens.
“I hope to ultimately achieve a sustainable paradigm throughout our small town and all of society, of creating a place that does not provide hands out, but hands up, to teach people how to learn how to grow their own food through participation and sharing only, without an emphasis on money,” he said. “Money has a funny way of causing someone in the transaction to be unhappy. I see trading seeds and plants, trees and knowledge, as a new currency — or ancient one — that necessarily must come back today in order to have food reach the mouths of those who need it most.”
A fundraiser for Isa’s Garden LLC is being conducted online through Go Fund Me. The group hopes to raise $600.