By Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan
CEDAR RAPIDS – Just one year ago, Ed Thornton was resolving a battle brought on by the city that forced him out of the vacant land he had gardened for four years.
Thornton has since relocated his gardening efforts, but hasn’t completely dropped the idea that would allow residents to garden on vacant city-owned land.
City officials threatened Thornton last summer with legal action, saying he had to remove his garden because the priority for the land, next to his home at Sixth Street and First Avenue SW, was infill housing to replace homes lost in the 2008 flood.
Since then, the land has remained vacant.
Crabgrass has replaced the lettuce, carrots, beets and more that Thornton grew at the site and freely gave away to neighbors and visitors to the garden.
On Saturday, Aug. 8, Thornton and friends gathered at the Oakhill Community Garden, where he now focuses his efforts, far removed from the home where he still resides in southwest Cedar Rapids. The new location, at 1007 Sixth St. SE, is on land owned by Lynette and Michael Richards.
Cucumbers dangle through wire fencing; tomatoes grow lush in raised garden beds and beans climb trellises that Thornton hand-constructed.
“We don’t sell any of it,” he said of the bountiful harvest. “We give it away.”
All of the produce is grown without chemicals, while maximizing space. Thornton estimated the new site at 7,000-square-feet, compared to about 1,500-square-feet that he gardened last year on the vacant city lot.
While Thornton can’t make it to the garden every day, as he did when he lived next door, he often can be found tending the site after a day at work.
“This isn’t a hobby,” Thornton said. “This is a religion for me. It keeps me sane.”
Read related stories here and see more images from Ed Thornton’s garden party, below: