Molly Rice, administrative assistant to the registrar at Bradley, is the director of North End Urban Garden, a community garden in the North Valley neighborhood, previously known as the North End neighborhood.
At first, Molly’s neighbors were not sure the garden was a good idea.
“A lot of people in the neighborhood said, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to do this garden,” said Rice. “People are just going to steal your produce. And I said, ‘Well, that’s kind of the point. I want them to take the produce.’ They just thought that was crazy.”
Besides spreading peace, another incentive was to provide healthier choices to the neighborhood. North Valley is a food desert, meaning there are no grocery stores nearby.
“We just want people to eat some healthy food because we don’t live in a neighborhood where they can just walk to the store and buy an apple or a banana. We’ve got a lot of chips and soda stores, but nothing healthy,” Rice said.
Volunteers in the community are concerned with the area’s selection of healthy foods as well.
“That’s something that’s very dangerous to somebody’s health because you do then just fall back on convenience foods, prepackaged foods, fast foods and those obviously are not good for your health. I really liked [volunteering there] because being a dietetics major, food is always at the forefront of my mind.” Amy Martin, a sophomore dietetics major who has volunteered at Urban Garden before, said.
Molly and her husband Mike bought their house in 2015. Shortly after, their neighbor’s house was a scene to a drive-by shooting during the night and firebombed a week later.
According to modern fire code standards, Molly’s neighbor couldn’t rebuild the house on the narrow lot and offered her the lot for $1.
“We weren’t really sure what we were going to do with it, but we just wanted to make sure that we had control over it,” Molly said.
Amy, one of their kids and 10 years old at the time, asked if they could start a “peace garden.”
Molly commented that she had no idea what she was getting into, since she knew nothing about gardening.
“We started gardening on it, just to see what we could do with it and things grew,” Rice said. “It seemed fairly easy.”
Afterwards, Molly called the city to see how she could acquire the lot that was between both of hers. They called her back four months later and offered to give her two lots.
They couldn’t biuld on either lot, but they worked well for the garden.
Molly’s goal in the long-term is to not only better their community, but for people to realize Urban Garden is here to stay.
“I’m hoping that the longer we’re there, the more people will realize that we’re not here to spread an agenda or push anything on them. We just want to be good neighbors,” Rice said.