This week on Cultivating Place we’re in conversation with Jenny Jones and Jen Toy. They are gardeners, landscape architects, and caring humans who are taking the idea of a test plot to the community level.
A test plot is a traditional term used in botany and land reclamation work. It describes a smaller piece of land on which outcomes are observed and tested in order to apply an appropriate treatment or formulate a realistic expectation for larger piece of land – whether for reclamation needs, the land’s seed bank, for soil health, or the like.
But Jenny and Jen’s idea, that they call Test Plot is to create an ongoing, hands-on experiment in ecological restoration that engages the community. Initially a more casual project of the Terremoto LA design firm, Jenny and Jen’s purpose for Test Plot is to celebrate the labor involved in land care and to build a stronger land and community-based land stewardship ethic, starting from their own community of Los Angeles.
Soon enough, they hope to be growing somewhere close to you! Listen in.
All photos courtesy of Jenny Jones, Jen Toy & Test Plot. All rights reserved.
Jen and Jenny have crafted a chapbook on Test Plot, which you can download here: Test Plot Handbook.
"I Plant Therefore I am."
One of the great hopes of Test Plot is seeing the art, craft and science of gardening being brought back into the fold of a fully envisioned manifestation of LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE. In this, Jen and Jenny see the possibility for changing how landscapes are designed and the possibility of designers, stewards, and communities working together instead of as individual and separated parts.
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JOIN US again next week, when we head to the prairies of the Canadian Midwest in conversation with gardener Janet Melrose, author of the Prairie Gardening go-to guides for all manner of topics related to gardening in their beautiful prairie place of the Canadian Midwest. Listen in!
Thinking out loud this week:
When we think about a traditional test plot, and then the nuanced and creative play on that Jen Toy and Jenny Jones’s concept for Test Plot is, when we think about our own gardening selves and what we germinate from the reach of our individual garden hoses, all of our gardens are Test Plots, aren’t they? Seeing what will grow, what won’t, what our growing friends need, what they don’t need, who will come and who does not come? What are our Test Plots showing and teaching each of you?
Further, this intersection of labor and land care that Test Plot is shining a light on brings up so many important topics, and harkens back to my note in the beginning of this episode that we can get really grave and earnest really quickly when we’re talking about the garden and its interaction with and impact on our greater cultures, as well as our greater cultures impact on gardening and land care. Both of which are good - getting serious and earnest, they are good as long as you have the bandwidth for that and are ready and able to think and see these lines of action/reaction, cause and effect. Because there is an undebatable link between land care and labor, by which I do not just mean the hours it takes to care for and help steward any piece of land that has been cultivated in a specific way and for which you have specific goals. Especially in an urban environment.
But I’m also talking about that link between labor laws, public policy, fair conditions for working, fair conditions for workers.
This is a connection that has long been obscured and or erased in our cultural understanding of how did a head of lettuce or a pound of green beans or strawberries or tomatoes get to us in the grocery store?
How does the public or corporate land let alone the private around our cities get gardened? Planted, weeded, mowed, watered, fertilized. Who are the people caring for of that life? And who is caring for them?
As any gardener knows there are many many hard human (and more than human) labor hours in gardening even a simple plot of ground, let alone managing acres and acres of it. This are lives and labors on whom our entire food system is dependent, on which much of the hoped for biodiversity of our urban spaces is dependent. Which is a very heavy load to bear.
Making the visible connection between underpaid or undervalued or under protected or under trained land care is one of the leading topics in our professional horticultural world right now, as it should be. Bringing it out in the open and to decision making tables may in fact bring about progress - the good people at Test Plot believes that is the path forward and that a the possibility worth growing towards. And I am All IN on that.
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