Vel's Purple Oasis Story
Vel's Purple Oasis is a community-based urban farm situated on one acre of land where Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood meets University Circle. Gardening first began at the Oasis in April of 2008, as a way to get members of the surrounding community involved with each other and to promote a healthy lifestyle through growing and eating high-quality produce. Within three years the Oasis developed partnerships with the Green Triangle permaculture designers, John Hay High School Environmental Club, the Ronald McDonald House, the New Agrarian Center, and the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods.
Since the garden began in the spring of 2008, it has grown in "leaps and bounds". Each year a new component has evolved. In June of 2009, a "Straw-bale Greenhouse" was built at the garden through the efforts of Brad Masi, who at that time was director of the Agrarian Center in Oberlin, Ohio. along with Hank Habermann and the Green Triangle Permaculture Group, and John Fellerstein's John Hay High School's Environmental Class, hundreds of volunteers came from around the country, as far away as Mississippi, to make history at the Oasis. It took a week of preparation to lay the foundation for the greenhouse. Neighbors, strangers and even young kids came to help us build trenches for our exciting adventure. Over the span of a weekend - two beautiful days on a Saturday and Sunday, the Straw-bale Greenhouse was built. It was unbelievable to see "something new - something healthful" being built in the heart of the city by so many people, from so many places, who gave up their weekend for the health and wealth of a community. As we all know, "Health is wealth". We are a rich, happy and healthier community because so many people cared.
Since the erection of the greenhouse, we have had workshops and classes on how to extend the growing season by starting our seeds and plant as early as March. Our neighborhood kids are in awe that it's cool in the summertime, and warm in the wintertime when its freezing outside. In 2009 Don and Vel Scott attended the Market Gardening course offered by Ohio State University Extension. This was a very intense, informative 12-week course. Having successfully completed this course, we received our first grant - $3,000.00 from the City of Cleveland's Greenback For Dollars program, which helped us buy tools and a wonderful shed for the garden.
This is just the beginning. New Image Lifeskills Academy, Inc. (NILSA), a non-profit organization founded by the Scotts' in 2002, rescued a home in the neighborhood - directly across the street from the garden, on Colonial Court, to be used as an educational center to prep fresh food from the garden, and also as a place that cooking classes can be held for residents to learn how to prepare healthy meals from foods not only from the garden, but from local food banks. It has become a place of peace and tranquility for people to come "Just as they are"; have a cool fresh summer salad, or a hot bowl of soup and cornbread on a cold winter day. The house is called "The Don Scott House". Don's vision, tremendous business background and love of people, is why we are the caretakers of the land on which the garden sits. Don never believed that you could actually own a piece of "Mother Earth" but that you could purchase it, pay the taxes on it, and then share it with others. Much has been done in The Don Scott House since 2009. Jim Baker, the next door neighbor to the house, has been the lead person in the renovation process. He has almost single-handily renovated the upstairs - taking down old wallpaper, slats and rugs. Again, volunteers came from "out of nowhere" to help put this home back together again. Oberlin College's Environmental Studies class became regulars in helping. Bus loads of students from Professor Janet Fiskio's class helped us, again along with neighborhood residents, to create an "Earthen Plaster" wall in keeping with our greening movement.
When I think of "Earth Angels" which I strongly believe in, I think of a young student named Mackenzie Brown from Seattle, Washington, who came up with the Oberlin students, who made a major financial contribution to the DSH through a foundation grant she received. This turned the house into the home that we envisioned. At the present time, we still need more funds to complete the house, probably around $15,000.00. But, we are on our way. And as my grandmother used to say, "By hook or crook" let's say its going to be by "hook", we'll get the funds to complete this wonderful home.