University of São Paulo: Community Gardens Resist Urbanization in Brazil’s Largest Metropolis

Dthe planting on a plate, whether in a restaurant or at any residence in the city of São Paulo, vegetables go a long way. They are mostly produced in municipalities close to the capital, such as Mogi das Cruzes, Santa Isabel and Suzano, in the eastern region, and Ibiúna, Itapetininga, Piedade do Sul and Sorocaba, in the western region, forming the Green Belt. This production is sent to the Companhia de Entrepostos and Armazéns Gerais de São Paulo (Ceagesp), in the West Zone of the city, which sells the food to street vendors and merchants in general. Along this path, prices increase at each stage, even more if there are other middlemen and intermediaries.

In addition to this production, there are initiatives in the capital of São Paulo to plant vegetables in the so-called “community gardens”. In these cases, the path from planting to consumption is shorter.

USP has been working along this path, helping these initiatives with research and studies that allow for new ventures or encourage existing ones. These places end up becoming fertile fields for the University to develop studies and experiments in education and food security, medicinal herbs cultivation and knowledge generation.

These “community gardens” are appearing more and more in São Paulo, the largest Brazilian metropolis, with around 12.3 million according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) for 2021 – distributed in an area of ​​1,521 square kilometers ( km²). They sprout in gray corners of the central regions of the city or in forgotten pieces of ground on the outskirts.

It is not known for sure how many there are, but there are already hundreds, some with a more social character of producing healthy food and generating income for those who have long been forgotten by the labor market, or as a motto for survival against structural inequalities. And others, installed in middle-class neighborhoods, have a more symbolic value of resistance to the city’s frenetic urbanization and show a new relationship of consumption with food.

According to information supplied by the São Paulo City Council’s Secretariat for Green and Environment, the Sampa+rural platform , which brings together initiatives in agriculture, tourism and healthy eating, currently has 103 urban gardens in the city of São Paulo. On the platform’s website, it is possible to view the location of the gardens throughout the city .

At USP, a group of scientists centralizes studies on urban agriculture
Among USP’s various initiatives with urban and community gardens, the Urban Agriculture Study Group (GEAU) can be highlighted, which, in 2016, was integrated into USP’s Institute for Advanced Studies (IEA). Since then, the group brings a proposal for nuclear debates and studies on urban (AU) and peri-urban agriculture in the city of São Paulo: possibilities, connections and contemporaneity. The group’s coordinator is Professor Thais Mauad, a researcher at the Department of Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine (FMUSP) at USP, a specialist in urban health and founder of the FMUSP community garden.

Since its creation, in 2014, the group has maintained partnerships with teaching and research institutions in Brazil and abroad, in addition to bringing together researchers from various USP units – from the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences, from Institute of Energy and Environment and the Graduate Program in Environmental Science – and also remained active, even during the pandemic. One of the most recent articles published by the group, in March 2021, in Sustainability magazine , was The Impact of COVID-19 on Urban Agriculture in São Paulo, Brazil .

The article, authored by Brazilian researchers and the Université Paris-Saclay, Paris, France, showed how farmers were affected by disruptions in the food chain during the coronavirus pandemic. The researchers showed that 50% of urban farmers in São Paulo were affected by the pandemic, which resulted in a noticeable drop in sales of their products. Those who were most affected were those who depended on intermediaries, and even among those who managed to adapt to the new sales channels, 22% said it became more difficult to obtain inputs for the garden. “There was a significant drop in the sales value of the products and an increase in the cost of inputs between April and May 2020”, describes the article.

The researchers also noted that although farmers had not received institutional support from the government during the pandemic and work in the gardens had declined significantly, no gardens were permanently closed.

Finally, despite all the difficulties, the authors recognize the strategic role of local agriculture in alleviating food insecurity in large cities such as São Paulo and defend the need to improve public policies for the area. “AU helps reduce dependence on fresh produce transported over long distances, especially in poorer neighborhoods, creating income and jobs for people in need,” reports the study.

Data were obtained from the analysis of two government surveys, with 2,100 farmers in the state of São Paulo and 148 in the city of São Paulo, in addition to two qualitative surveys carried out with volunteers from ten community gardens and seven urban farmers.

The project aims to generate knowledge and increase the resilience of urban food production systems; understand and increase the governance of urban agriculture in both cities; increase technical capacity to improve irrigation practices; and improve the selection of edible plants suitable for both environments.

The project also includes seminars and technical visits to exchange knowledge in permaculture (holistic and socio-environmental science, which combines scientific knowledge with traditional popular knowledge) and irrigation in the urban context, in addition to promoting events with the participation of authorities from the local government (SP), with the objective of helping to advance local public policies for sustainable food production in cities and water management techniques in times of water crisis.

“The partnership with Melbourne yielded two articles and a book chapter, whose theme was urban agriculture in Melbourne and São Paulo, with the issue of land as a backdrop”, explains Professor Thais to Jornal da USP . GEAU also published the dossier Urban agriculture in the city of São Paulo: considerations on production and marketing in Revista number 101, of the IEA, in April 2021; and contributed an e-book chapter on hunger, which will be released soon by USP.

Learn more about the members of the GEAU group:

going to practice
Articles, studies and projects are not enough. In addition to the research on the subject and the scientific knowledge that benefit this new social demand of the city, USP is embarking on concrete projects such as the “Horta da Faculdade de Medicina”, planted on the slab of one of the buildings of the Faculty of Medicine .

In addition to the benefits provided by organically produced and harvested locally sourced food, the space also serves as a discussion for various subjects, such as integrative practices with traditional medicine. Thais Mauad, one of the founders and coordinator of the garden, believes that it is important to think about the factors that are in the genesis of the diseases. “The garden environment reminds us of the origin of our food and its importance to maintain good health”, he says.

In the FMUSP curriculum there is the subject “Culinary Medicine”. According to the professor, it is an optional subject that has been taught for three years. “We offer it once a year and, in 2021, we had a huge demand, by more than 100 students, and we are teaching online for the Ribeirão Preto and Bauru campuses, in addition to the capital”, he says. In the matter, FMUSP professors, professionals and gastronomic chefs give classes and workshops that address the impact of food on the health of patients.

Thais talk about the varied crops that exist in the garden. “In addition to the vegetables best known by the population, such as lettuce, chayote, chives and kale, we also have Pancs (non-conventional food plants), which were the foods consumed by an older generation – taioba, pigweed, purslane, ora- pro-nobis, cambuquira, sweet potato leaf, etc. “These vegetables are easy to grow and care for, in addition to being highly nutritious”, he says.

And to show that these plants are tasty, two researchers from the Faculty of Public Health (FSP) at USP – Ana Maria Bertolini and Gabriela Rigote – organized an e-book with recipes using the Pancs. Access the cookbook:

A matter of public health: São Paulo and Lisbon
In addition to having a place at the Institute for Advanced Studies (IEA) and practical experiences with the Faculty of Medicine, studies on urban and community gardens at USP are advancing. And why not compare the experiences of our city with the Portuguese capital, Lisbon? This was the central theme of a research carried out at the Faculty of Public Health (FSP) at USP.

The research shows how the construction of urban agriculture takes place in regions of social vulnerability, in neighborhoods located in the East Zone of São Paulo, and in Lisbon, Portugal. Sociologist Laura Martins de Carvalho, author of the study, explains to Jornal da USP that Portuguese vegetable gardens are institutionalized and the local city government finances the projects involved in this aspect.

In São Paulo, the initiatives are horizontal, democratic and emerge from the community base. Urban farmers are self-managed. They produce, harvest, sell and share expenses and profits. In Portugal, the cultivation of vegetables, greens and teas is associated with the occupational therapy of cultivating and planting the land and ensuring the continuity of natural systems in urban areas. Around here, the basic need for food on the family’s daily plate is what drives urban farmers to undertake.

Urban agriculture is also a means of resistance against structural inequalities in the East Zone of São Paulo. Among the farmers, women have been taking a leading role in their communities, helping them to overcome countless violations experienced in the social and family sphere.

The thesis Urban agriculture in contexts of social vulnerability in the east of São Paulo and in Lisbon, Portugal was defended this year, 2021, under the guidance of professor Cláudia Bógus, from FSP.

Research by the School of Communications and the Arts amplifies the voice of leaders
At USP’s School of Communications and Arts (ECA), doctoral student Douglas Galan produced the documentary Cyber-Roça that deals with the subject in depth. Lasting 1h36min, the production portrays activities linked to urban community gardens spread across the city of São Paulo. The work resulted in the thesis Cyber ​​roças: audiovisual recordings and achievements on urban agriculture in metropolitan geographic, media and technological contexts , defended in 2020 in the ECA’s Audiovisual Processes and Means program, with funding from the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo ( Fapesp).

“In a way, the thesis and the documentary are a tribute to my roots and, in general, to the roots of the Brazilian people, who owe a lot to the field in relation to their education and culture”

The documentary brings the testimony of leaders of several gardens, some installed in neighborhoods in the central regions – Horta do Ciclista , in Paulista; Horta das Corujas , in Vila Mariana; Horta das Nascentes, in Pompeia – and other initiatives on the outskirts of the city – those in the East and South Zones, for example, the latter generating a great positive impact on the surrounding community. Where they were installed, there was an improvement in the quality of life, they brought income and the practitioners of urban agriculture felt more encouraged in the fight against structural violence.

The documentary also addressed issues involving food production, the expansion of physical cultivation space through electronic and digital means, the reconstitution of notions about geographic space, and cultural and social reorganizations linked to the context of urban agriculture, among others questions.

Douglas explains to Jornal da USP that one of the reasons that led him to pursue this theme in his doctorate was the fact that he was surprised by the strength of the initiatives that took place in cities and that he realized the countless benefits that these activities provided to the people involved. From a personal point of view, the motivation came from having a rural past. During childhood and adolescence, he lived on a farm in Jales, in the interior of São Paulo. The parents and grandparents worked and lived on farms for most of their lives, not always in the best conditions, as they were sharecroppers on other people’s land. “ In a way, the thesis and the documentary are a tribute to my roots and, in general, to the roots of the Brazilian people, who owe a lot to the field in relation to their education and culture”, he says.

Watch the documentary:

Horta dos Cyclistas, considered “ground zero” of urban community gardens in São Paulo. Crossing of Avenida Paulista with Rua da Consolação. “Symbolic space. Place and context for visibility of urban agriculture issues in the capital” (documentary Cyber-Roça ) – Photo: Ivanir Ferreira

Rafael Martins de Castro, resident of the Monte Azul community, from Horta Monte Azul, Capão Redondo, South Region of São Paulo – Photo: reproduction/ documentary Cyber ​​Roça

The multiple functions of urban agriculture
In another research on urban/community vegetable gardens developed at USP, environmental engineer Roberta Moraes Curan presented at USP’s Luiz de Queiroz School of Agriculture (Esalq), in Piracicaba, the master’s thesis Multifunctionality of agroecologically based urban agriculture: a study in the East Zone of the city of São Paulo/SP.

Roberta’s study involved male and female farmers who work in the East Zone Farmers Association (AAZL) in the city of São Paulo. “We tried to verify to what extent agroecologically based urban agriculture performs multiple functions and how it contributes to different dimensions of life for those farmers”, describes the researcher, who is also a member of the IEA’s Urban Agriculture Study Group (GEAU). “Urban agriculture is not just about food production. Educational aspects must be highlighted, as these gardens encourage food and environmental education”, says Roberta.

The environmental engineer studied the AAZL with analyzes based on three dimensions, each containing different functions. In the sociocultural dimension – food and nutrition security (SAN), health and food education; in the economic dimension – poverty reduction and social inclusion, encouraging new forms of distribution and commercialization; in the environmental dimension – preservation of biodiversity, cycling of organic waste, water and nutrients and a favorable microclimate. Thus, it was possible to verify that the gardens fulfill multiple roles with different intensities, having, in practice, an important place in the lives of these farmers and the urban community around them.

Roberta interviewed 11 AAZL farmers and consulted bibliographies on the topic to develop her research. AAZL has about 30 associates and they work in neighborhoods in the East Zone of the city, such as São Matheus, São Rafael, José Bonifácio, together with one of the Cohabs, Lajeado and Iguatemi. “There is a vegetable garden that is not in the East Zone, but in the neighborhood of Ipiranga”, remembers Roberta. Among the rules to participate in this association, the farmer is required to have an agroecological production. “The gardens are relatively small, with about a thousand square meters (m2). Among those studied in the survey, the largest had 6,000 square meters,” recalls Roberta. According to her, AAZL still does not bring together all the farmers in the eastern region of the city. “Certainly, there are more farmers in the region who have been producing for a long time, but they are not yet affiliated with AAZL”, he says. She highlights that the Association has a certificate issued by the Ministry of Agriculture in which farmers self-certify. This is called participatory certification.

Stimulating political engagement
In another study by USP’s Luiz de Queiroz School of Agriculture (Esalq), in Piracicaba, researcher André Ruoppolo Biazoti analyzed how the involvement of citizens in vegetable gardens boosted civic and activist engagement in the face of urban problems. The study entitled Political engagement in urban agriculture: the power to act in community gardens in São Paulo shows that the city is the cradle of several community gardens, organized through social networks and that have enormous potential for political articulation. “The exchange of information and experiences about food production encourages civic engagement,” observes Biazoti.

“Espinoza [the philosopher] says that the more you have happy affections, that is, the more things fill you with joy, the more powerful you feel to do other things and I noticed this happening in the gardens”

The researcher points out that a good part of the studied gardens emerged as of 2010, through the articulation of groups on social networks, which joined together to occupy previously idle land. “These are educational gardens, that is, in addition to existing for the production of food, they are also therapeutic spaces, for activism and leisure, which connect people with nature”, explains the researcher.

One of the concepts within studies on agriculture, as explained by Biazoti, is its multifunctionality. That is, agriculture fulfills other functions in territories besides production. “In the case of urban agriculture, the vegetable garden has a therapeutic function, of community development, as it is a space where people from a certain neighborhood meet, talk, exchange recipes, experiences and defend the place where they live.”

In addition, community gardens in squares, for example, ensure the quality of public space, by transforming a place that was previously empty into a place that is, in fact, being used by people, a refuge for fauna and flora within the city. “The presence of community gardens increases the amount of permeable green areas, reduces the risk of flooding and ensures that water seeps into the soil”, points out Biazoti.

An interesting case occurred in a square in the Pompeia region, West Zone of São Paulo. Before Praça Homero Silva, the place has been known since 2013 as Praça da Nascente, as it houses 13 springs that were only discovered due to a mobilization of several residents of the region. According to the researcher, after the construction of the community garden, there was a process of revitalization of the place, previously abandoned, which led to the construction of a lake using water from the outcrops.

“According to Espinoza, politics arises through people’s desires, in what he calls the power to act,” says the researcher. Baruch Espinoza was a 17th century Dutch philosopher, responsible for constituting a “science of affections”. The thinker is Biazoti’s theoretical framework.

By fulfilling a series of functions beyond the production of food and food supply for certain families, the urban garden is a space that enhances common action.

“From the moment people realized that they were not alone and that the improvement of that space was something they did together with other people in the neighborhood, it was possible to represent them with the city hall or some public agency. This allowed for a horizontal decision space on that area.” In addition to being a public space, the garden site becomes a common space, no longer owned by the city hall. “It ends up becoming a space owned by people who are, in fact, managing and enjoying the garden, in the name of a broader community”, he concludes.

In addition, people began to engage politically, participating in municipal councils and meetings with the municipal administration. “They were people who didn’t necessarily have a profile for that, that is, ordinary citizens who were advertisers, journalists, doctors, in short, people with totally different profiles, who began to engage in politics”, describes Biazoti. All of this done on a voluntary basis, for the simple purpose of connecting with the space, meeting new people and making that space better.

These people also articulated in defense of agriculture in the city of São Paulo. “When they participate in a public hearing, for example, it’s not just to defend their garden, their territory. They go to defend the city’s farmers and place themselves as part of these farmers”, points out the researcher.

However, André emphasizes that, despite participation in community gardens boosting a broader role for people, there are still many challenges for the constitution of a group that manages to articulate itself politically in a decisive manner. “This participation potentializes for a micro crowd, but it is not this crowd that needs to exist in order to actually be a strong political force in the city of São Paulo”, he explains.

Urban gardens are maintained by the dedication of their managers and employees
Horta Sabor da Vitória
Mrs. Terezinha dos Santos Matos, 54, is from the “Sabor da Vitória” vegetable garden in the São Matheus neighborhood, in the East Zone of São Paulo. She and her husband, mr. Nildo, they carry out the activities of the garden, from where they make their living. Weekly, they organize a stand to sell their products, prepare baskets and take them to be sold in spaces of coexistence and solidarity economy, such as the Organic Fair of Itaquera and Tatuapé and some stores such as the Feira Livre Institute and the Instituto Floor.

Dona Terezinha came from Ribeira de Pombal, Bahia, 25 years ago, and says she is in love with what she does in her garden. In her hometown, she worked in the countryside with her family, but she said that she didn’t want that life for her in the future because it was very painful. Upon arriving in São Paulo, after working with cosmetics sales and as a street vendor, fate led her to deal with the land again. Asked what excited her to be a farmer in São Paulo, she says that the climate is more stable and, mainly, there is more guarantee, thanks to the valorization of urban agriculture, of having its products bought by people.

Mrs. Terezinha dos Santos Matos, from Horta Sabor da Vitória. “It’s from the garden that we make a living from our house”.
Credit: Personal file

Medicine Garden

Mrs. Dirlei Ferreira de Oliveira, 65, who lives in Itapecerica da Serra, a municipality in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, has been crossing the city for six years to work as a volunteer at the Horta of the Faculty of Medicine of USP . For her, it is a pleasure to deal with the land. Three times a week, she is part of the joint effort at the university to take care of the vegetable garden – watering, pruning, harvesting and planting new seedlings.

Mrs. Dirlei says that she worked with a lot in her life, she was a maid, sold used clothes and sewed, but she had to stop everything to take care of her husband, who was sick and bedridden for many years. After she became a widow, she tried to re-establish her social contacts and met the people in the garden. “Ms. Dirlei is always here with us helping. She is one of the most assiduous volunteers in the garden”, says teacher Thais. “Now I feel free because I don’t have any more commitments with the house or with my husband, I can come and go whenever I want”, she says.

Mrs. Dirley Ferreira de Oliveira, 65, crosses the city to take care of the vegetable garden. Do it with pleasure. She lives in Itapecerica da Serra, metropolitan region of São Paulo and has been a volunteer for six years at the Horta da Faculdade de Medicina – Photo : Paulo Zembruski

Paulo Zembruski, agricultural technician and chief diagrammer of the Scientific Documentation Service at the Faculty of Medicine, is also one of the founders of the FM garden. His origin is Pato Branco, Paraná, where he lived his childhood and part of his adolescence with family members at the food production site. Although he has a degree in social communication and also takes advantage of these skills to update the garden’s social networks, his greatest dedication is even in the cultivation of food. After finishing his work as a diagrammer at college, he goes to the vegetable garden: sows, waters, cleans beds, prepares the land, harvests and makes more as he needs.

His training as an agricultural technician and the remaining memories of the place where he lived contributed a lot to his experience in the garden, but it was the daily challenges that brought him a lot of learning. In the technical course, he learned how to manage plants on land, in the FMUSP garden, initially everything was cultivated in plastic drums. There was a time when almost everything was lost due to the high temperatures of the slab where the drums were, he explains. “We had to look for alternatives”. That’s when the idea of ​​using large Styrofoam boxes as a vase to carry out the planting arose. Initially, there was a certain suspicion that this experiment could not work, but when it was observed that even being in the Styrofoam the soil remained healthy, containing earthworms, this was the “bioindicative” to attest to the good quality of the soil. Today,

Horta Monte Azul
José Cândido da Silva, 68, is the founder of “Horta Monte Azul”, which is located in Capão Redondo, South Zone of São Paulo. Before the creation of the vegetable garden, I was already working with the residents of the Monte Azul community, in that same region, with educational activities to train teachers based on the anthroposophical philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and the Paulo Freire line. He traveled to various regions of Europe, including Germany, where he had greater contact with Steiner’s philosophy, considered the creator of anthroposophy, Waldorf pedagogy, biodynamic agriculture and anthroposophical medicine.

In the Monte Azul community, on a daily basis, he came across discouraged older people (unemployed or retired), wandering in the region, without much to do. He thought about the possibility of creating a project that could include these people and give them a sense of life. That’s when the idea of ​​the vegetable garden came up. In addition to helping older people to have an occupation, it could also attract young people from that region.

At the beginning, Zeca, as he is known, says that it was not easy. The work in the garden is hard. It takes at least six months to get the first fruits. Prepare the land, plant, care and wait for the time to grow. Many gave up, but those who stayed saw the project grow. There was a time when they made an agreement with the City of São Paulo and those who worked in the garden received a salary. They were able to buy equipment and even built a seed bank from their own production. Zeca is no longer part of the vegetable garden, he moved with his partner, an indigenous Tucano, to the Capivari reserve, in the extreme south of São Paulo.

Flower Garden
Horta das Flores is located in the traditional neighborhood of the city’s East Side, Mooca, on the edge of one of the main avenues in the region, Alcântara Machado, better known as Radial Leste. Considered one of the few green areas in the neighborhood, Horta das Flores occupies an area of ​​approximately 7,000 square meters in Praça Alfredo Di Cunto square.

Operating at the site for 17 years, the initiative was founded by Mr. Pedro de Almeida. Currently, the space is managed by publicist José Luiz Fazzio and environmental manager Maria Regina Grilli. “We’ve been managing this project for about seven years, fighting and resisting several onslaughts by the government to transform this square into popular housing or other projects”, says the advertiser. In addition to plans to build a crèche on the site, as happened some time ago, there was also speculation of a possible housing development. But when Fazzio and Maria Regina took over the management of the place, they began to work strongly with the borough. “And this fight continues to this day”, emphasizes the manager.

In the space of Horta das Flores there are not only vegetables and legumes. “We have several species of Atlantic Forest trees, all of them duly cataloged with QR code”, says Fazzio. According to him, a third of the space is occupied by fruit trees.

About 30 people work in the maintenance of Horta das Flores. They work on a shift system during the week for watering, pruning and other care. And, on weekends, the concentration of people increases due to fruit tastings and other activities that take place in the space, such as the exchange of seeds and dishes specially prepared with products from the garden. “On Sundays, from 8 am to 2 pm, the space gathers between 50 and 70 people”, estimates Fazzio.

The production of Horta das Flores is not commercialized. Much of it is earmarked for partner programs and entities and projects such as Verdejando, Nossa Senhora do Bom Parto Social Center – BOMPAR, Arsenal da Esperança, Pedra 90 and the OHQUIDEA project (which rescued more than 10,000 orchids since 2017).

“The garden also has partnership projects with universities such as USP and other private ones, such as Uninove, Universidade Anhembi Morumbi and São Judas Tadeu”, highlights the manager. The main focus of Horta das Flores, according to Fazzio, is environmental education. And with regard to USP, he points out that there are frequent consultations with specialists, especially regarding information on food safety and soil maintenance.

East Zone Farmers Association (AAZL)
The East Zone Farmers Association (AAZL) was created in 2009. “It is a structure in which all affiliated farmers participate in the organization of the entity”, explains biologist and educator Andreia Perez Lopes, who is responsible for the administrative area of ​​AAZL . In all, the organization brings together 40 farmers and 14 gardens where, according to Andreia, each farmer is responsible for his area.

AAZL’s job, as Andreia explains, is to organize farmers by providing agroecological technical assistance, developing projects and promoting partnerships for the sale of products. “We encourage urban agriculture here in the East Zone of the city and we also publicize the projects we develop through our social networks”, describes the biologist. Farmers who participate in the association do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or any other product that contaminates the land in their agricultural areas.

Another advantage of AAZL is that the organization enables farmers to practice lower-than-market prices. “The prices are much lower even than the products that are found in conventional fairs and supermarkets”, guarantees Andreia, noting that 90% of the production is vegetables and some vegetables. There is no strong fruit production, according to Andreia, because a large part of the vegetable gardens belong to water concessionaires. “In some private areas that allow the planting of trees, we have some fruits, such as avocado, banana, acerola, jabuticaba, blackberry and lemon”, he highlights.

Horta da Saúde
Since 2013, in the Saúde district, in the South Zone of the city, Horta da Saúde has been operating . What used to be an inert point in a public space, which generated social and environmental problems due to the disposal of garbage and debris, as well as a drug point, has been home to the vegetable garden for eight years.

“Horta da Saúde was born from the desire to create a space for sustainable and regenerative coexistence in that location, where we would share concepts of permaculture, connection to nature and with a special look at people”, says Sergio Shigeeda, who works as a volunteer and is a co-creator from the garden. “In addition to the cultivation of conventional and pancs, the concern with water, waste, bees and people are part of our sustainable life axis”, describes Sérgio, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from USP, and also an environmentalist and socio-environmental activist.

Located near the Metro Saúde station, the 420 m2 space is maintained by the work of volunteers who consume, moderately, what is produced. “We donate seedlings, seeds and cuttings to create new gardens, even for the surrounding residents”, says Sérgio. He says that in the garden fence there are plants such as ora-pro-nobis, oelifera moringa, lemon balm and aguaco. Everything available to the community.

But the largest production in Horta das Flores is of traditional plants, such as lettuce, chicory, arugula, radish, kale, cabbage, cassava, parsley, chives, mustard, beetroot, yam, rosemary, basil, mint, lemongrass, dwarf banana, silver and gold, lemon, blackberry, and others. “There are also plants that we brought from abroad, such as purple chili, oil jug, capuchin, small fish, taioba, turmeric, mitsubá, dandelion, beak, sawdust, plantain, chaya, whaling, melissa, etc,” he says. But, in addition, Horta da Saúde volunteers also act as caretakers and promoters of stingless bees. “That’s why we have to have flowers in all strata for our pollinators, to share that without bees we won’t have food”, emphasizes Sérgio.

“And as a ‘Community Garden’, we do not carry out commerce”, warns the employee. Together with the environmental council of the Saúde region, the employees of Horta da Saúde managed to bring to the site the organic health fair, which runs on Wednesdays, from 7 am to 3 pm, in the José Maria Withacker square. “We encourage the creation of other smaller points of sale so that everyone has access to healthy and sustainable food”, highlights Sérgio. But the initiative’s activities also include tree plantations throughout the city. “We received students from all over Brazil and from other countries to collaborate with course completion, master’s and doctoral students”, he recalls. There is also a supply of food from the garden to two local communities.

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