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Tenacious gardeners put down roots in 'America's most desperate town'

• csmonitor.com

These are Pedro Rodriguez's chickens, in alphabetical order: Bella, Blanche, Dominique, Flo, Flossie, Lucy, Pauline, Una, and Victoria. Their coop occupies one corner of a vacant-lot-turned-garden in Camden, New Jersey. It's an oasis of abundance and order in a city of abandoned buildings, street trash, and drug deals that few attempt to hide.

Since 2010, the number of community gardens has more than doubled to roughly 130.

Rodriguez, 50, grew up down the street. Near the chickens, he has planted neat raised beds of corn, tomatoes, cabbage, kale, asparagus, eggplant, onion, 20 varieties of hot peppers, and broccoli. Fruit trees (cherry, apple, peach, and pear) line the perimeter of the lot, as well as two beehives. He's considering getting a goat.

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