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July 24, 2014, 11:45 am

Film tells of efforts to save beloved garden

Northwest Philadelphia and Cheltenham gardeners are excited about a short documentary film spotlighting the LaMott Community Garden.

The film, titled “Sacred Soil,” is set to premiere at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, in Center City, Sunday, Aug. 5 at 2:30 p.m. The doors open at 2 p.m. There is no admission charge.

“Sacred Soil” tells the story of Diane Williams, the interim president of LaMott Community Garden.

It traces the journey that began when Williams, a retired mortgage banking professional, was approached by an elder in the Cheltenham Township community about plans to sell and develop their garden. Homeowners from East and West Mount Airy, East and West Oak Lane, and LaMott grow organic vegetation there.

Among those planning to attend the historic screening will be many of the African-American, mature adults who are regulars at the LaMott Community Garden. Bob Thomas and Robert Davis, both of Mount Airy, are avid gardeners. Davis, a native of Petersburg, Va., said his daughter, Nicole, had some patients who gardened at the venue. When she told him about it he immediately joined others growing fresh crops.

“At first they were telling me there were no plots,” Davis said. “Then I cleared out this rocky patch. I grew up on a farm so I know that you can bring life to any space. We are able to grow healthy vegetables here. We even get to share what we have.”

Corrine Jones of Fox Chase was among the special guests who took a tour of the garden when they held their annual barbecue on July 14. Her uncle, 93-year-old Eugene Williams of Northwest Philadelphia, is among the loyal, longtime gardeners.

“This is the life blood of this community,” Jones said. “Uncle Eugene is originally from South Carolina and this puts him in touch with the land. He grew up in a time when people lived from gardening, and they knew how to can and preserve what they grew. I think it’s just wonderful for people to be able to see a garden in the middle of all these homes.

“That’s why I am outraged that there are some who want to take this garden away from here,” Jones added. “So many people are talking about saving the environment. What better way to help the environment by developing our green spaces with gardens? Everything my uncle grows is organic. We don’t need any more cement.”

Williams noted there is a new generation who is learning about gardening from the more experienced elders.

Area schools and youth organizations are welcome to take supervised tours of the garden. Currently among the crops are turnips, butter beans, peppers, okra, yams, string beans, squash, white potatoes, cabbage, onions and carrots.

“We want the entire community to come out to hear the story,” Williams said. “It has been an ongoing struggle to save this garden. So, please pass the word and bring a friend. We are excited about “Sacred Soil” produced by Matthew Marencik, Jason Furrer and Stephen McWilliams.”