Gardening Eden 

Susan Beck says urban gardens can improve people's health, create green space, provide jobs, dampen crime, and revitalize Cherryland. That's a lot to ask of a few plots of land.

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Of course, the most challenging aspect of farming — whether small or large-scale — has always been financial sustainability. Big ag relies heavily on government subsidies, and urban ag projects on continuous injections of grant money. But, Beck said, financial sustainability is only one goal that the network is working toward. Right now the group is focusing on whether there is value in land that goes beyond residential development value.

"This is an experiment," Beck said, admitting that the answer to whether the gardens can financially sustain themselves could very well be "no."

Hank Herrera, the current project manager for the Ashland/Cherryland Garden Network, said financial sustainability is going to be the network's greatest challenge. "We have to convert initial investment into a successful business enterprise that generates enough revenue to continue employment for people," he said.

Herrera couldn't specify exactly how the network planned to make this happen. This is now the biggest question on the network's table. But Herrera estimates that Cherryland and Ashland lose millions of dollars per year on residents buying food outside of the community every year, and said he has faith that the quality of homegrown goods will advertise themselves.

"People will taste our stuff and they'll know," he said. "And the word will spread."

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