by Samantha Melamed, April 27, 2020
One afternoon last week, at a table in the back of West Philadelphia’s Making Worlds bookstore, Kate Illes shook aji pepper seeds into hand-labeled envelopes. In a comfortable chair near a section on prisons and oppression, Nathan Kleinman bundled Brussels sprout seeds. And, over by the front desk, Trika Parasimo meted out melon seeds.
This makeshift assembly line is the nationwide hub of the Cooperative Gardens Commission. Inconspicuous though it may be, it’s the epicenter of a new food gardening movement born from this moment of scarcity — as Americans have seen grocery store shelves stripped bare by panic buying and viral photos of zucchini rotting in the field for want of distribution channels — and as millions of unemployed are suddenly staring down abundant free time, looming food insecurity, and a deep craving to be outdoors.