Keeping Promises…

     “And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than than the whole race of politicians put together.”      Jonathan Swift, from Gulliver’s Travels.

Last week I wrote about discovering a toad at the bottom of a planted container. When having a chat with some friends over a few glasses of wine last weekend I was asked, “Did you not want to kiss him to see if he would turn into a prince?” I suppose Mr. Warty would be considered very handsome to his female counterparts–his big eyes, stripes and spots. But no, I was not so inspired and feel I have to date kissed enough toads. I am, though, lucky enough to have my prince–but not one who morphed from a toady state of being via my lip sandwich.

I took a tour of the garden spot at Urban Promise yesterday. Nadia VanderKuip and her group are doing great things there. The garden provides the students with lessons: they learn about history and why Native Americans planted corn, squash and beans together; they learn about how the garden is an example of spiritual faith in seeds dying and coming to a new life; they learn some science and botany as they study how plants grow.

The students also learn about food itself–real stuff. Healthy stuff. Camden is a food desert with many residents–including children–not ever having much–or any– fresh fruits and vegetables. Nadia told me that many of the students there know 7-11 as a place where food comes from. We talked about the challenge for children to thrive without access to good nutrition: so many things are compromised right at the gate without it and many health issues spring from poor nutrition–diabetes, asthma/allergies, and obesity just a few.

Urban Promise started in 1988 with a summer camp in Camden. It has grown to embrace their mission which is to “equip Camden children and young adults with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and Christian leadership.” 100% of Urban Promise High School Students graduate, 93% go on to college, and 85% graduate college, many returning to Urban Promise as either employees or volunteers.

The bounty of the summer garden provides food for the co-op and at the end of the summer is canned into salsa. The garden is all in raised bed boxes, filled with compost. The plants are healthy and vigorous. I commented to Nadia that she didn’t have rabbit fencing around the garden. She said that there weren’t any around–at least for now,  one of the benefits of urban gardening. That’s a huge help, for sure.

Nadia told me that the garden is only part of the work she does with Urban Promise–so she can always use more hands to help. Nadia travels a lot with Urban Promise as she is the Director of UPSEL, working to expand their mission in some of “our world’s most under-resourced communities.”

Here is my CALL TO ACTION for you, garden friends! Please consider if you have some time, to donate a bit of it for any of the typical garden chores, weeding, watering, harvesting, or even the canning. When I asked Nadia for what might be on the “garden wish list,” she said, “It would be great to have a small greenhouse.” So please also consider a financial donation to the group. To arrange any volunteer time, please call Nadia at 856-382-1861. She can also give you donation information. Nadia’s email address is:

You can learn more about Urban Promise at ….Urban Promise

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