Jillian Glasgow is standing at the corner of Southwest Fourth and Jefferson on a recent evening as she surveys the City Hall Garden she has tended for the past three years. Now in its seventh growing season, the former parking lot and grass patch was transformed into a downtown oasis where passersby can interact with the process of growing food and be inspired to create their own gardens.
The fruits (and vegetables) of Glasgow’s labor travel just a few blocks up the street to a nearby church, where food pantry volunteers pack it into boxes and cook it into hot meals for their clients. On occasion, Glasgow will hand off some fresh produce directly to folks in need, like the crisp collard greens she bestowed upon a vivacious visitor as they exchanged recipes for hot water cornbread.
While tending to rows of Swiss chard, snap peas, and Sungold tomatoes, Glasgow relishes the interactions with interested onlookers. The lush leaves of potato plants, rainbow-colored stems of chard, and bright yellow orbs dangling from tomato stakes stand in relief to the surrounding concrete and pavement, attracting people from different walks of life to the fount of fresh food on City property. From these conversations, Glasgow discovers the gardening topics people hope to learn about, which inform the tips and notes she writes on signs planted throughout the garden.
Glasgow urges people to come visit and look closely, making observations about the imperfections inherent in any garden lovingly tended by human hands. She helps home gardeners realize that it’s possible to grow a lot of food on a small amount of land. “You just have to get a little closer, make some observations, and learn a little bit,” she said.