Favorite Things: Fledge owner Jerry Norris and his free community garden


My favorite thing is our community garden and what we are starting to do with it. As things start to bloom and produce food, we are doing a summer of taking for the community. We have lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, herbs, tomatoes and sunflowers. 

Anybody who walks by can pick anything they want to take home with them. That is surprising to most people. Everyone thinks we are just going to get mobbed, and people will steal and take everything, but I don’t think that is what’s going to happen. I think what will really start to happen is people are going to be respectful of it and take what they need, but not too much.

My grandmother and grandfather were Great Depression and World War Two people, “the Greatest Generation.” They had “Victory Gardens,” and my grandpa took a lot of pride in the gardens he grew. Our family actually used to have a grocery store on the west side called “Norris Groceries” where we grew and sold food. My grandfather always taught me the value of growing your own food, from money and a health perspective. Health, in this case, was the meditative part for him. He would get lost in his garden and when he had a problem, he worked at his garden.

I do that now. Whenever I’m working in the garden, I feel like the mission is being accomplished. It is one of the very few things where I can look at a tomato plant and see it is a tangible result. I can pick and eat and smell it. When I am working on job creation, I can’t taste that.

I like how a lot of people slow down in their cars to look at this, and a lot of employees from Sparrow are now walking on this side of the street to see the garden. The garden to us is very symbolic of what our mission is. We try to attract people and welcome them and include them. Then we go into the discovery and creation and sustainability process.

This project is not about trying to judge who is taking or not taking things. I want people comfortable with using abundance. We have so much abundance in this world that we can take care of everyone, but we choose not to. We store it away.

It is always because we are scared of running out, but when this garden pops, and we have all these tomatoes, I think we will be more at risk of having to throw all these things out.

(This interview was edited and condensed by Dennis Burck. If you have a recommendation for “Favorite Things,” please email dennis@lansingcitypulse.com.)



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