Trav and I had a heavy day of interviewing ahead of us, first on the schedule was Tom Benevento of Muddy Bikes, an urban garden. The plot is really the back and front yards of two houses owned by the nonprofit just a few blocks from my favorite downtown diner, the Little Grill. Tom Benevento is the dreamer who landscaped this social justice project after spending many years working with land and community issues in Latin America. Tom chose Harrisonburg VA to be the site of his next justice venture because it is a city that constantly teeters on the edge of dynamic change. It's a city like a lot of cities, ripe for change and always tempted to remain status quo.
After Tom bought the plots he found there was a community interested in helping him work towards more equanimity in relation to food and justice and people. There are many disadvantaged folks in Harrisonburg, and with Muddy Bikes Tom and company have found a way to offer more options to folks. Economically distressed people work the urban plots and are paid a great wage from the profit the produce makes at market. There is no fuel involved, and all transport is done by bikes with trailers on them (hence the name). There are many connected networks such as Our Community Works (those looking for jobs find them through this organization) and there is a new farm outside the city limits that will be available for people struggling with addictions to work on. The house that sits on the urban property houses up to three people at a time who need housing.
Not all the neighbors have been receptive to living next to Muddy Bikes but even that has it's positive outcome as neighbors with different perspectives and stories learn to live with each other. If Harrisonburg truly does teeter on the edge of climactic and great change I have no doubt that Tom and crew will be some of the ones giving it a healthy shove in that direction.