It might have been a small patch of dirt, a few pots on the porch, or an expanse of acreage. No matter the size, the family garden plot is a seminal part of the African American experience from slavery to land ownership. But after a century of mass black migration north to urban centers, the produce section of the supermarket has supplanted the backyard vegetable garden, which was the source of the freshest collard greens; sweet corn, tomatoes, carrots and more — and folks who ate those foods straight from the garden were healthier for it.
For urban dwellers, space limitations are a challenge, which is why Mario and Kellen Gillespie of Roots and Shoots, LLC share innovative solutions to get Chicago city dwellers back in touch with gardening within any budget or space.
“We help people understand how much money they save just by growing herbs instead of buying them in the store,” says Mario in a recent interview with Outdoor Afro.
Meanwhile in Oakland, California, People’s Grocery increases awareness of eating for health and economic sustainability through events, education, and an urban gardening program. In the West side of this town, there is no grocery store from which people can obtain fresh produce. This critical reality is what helped mobilize the organization into action to change the way food distribution systems work. People’s Grocery believes “everyone should have access to healthy food, regardless of income” — and certainly getting people outside gardening is one important step in that direction.
I currently live in an apartment that provides just a balcony for personal outdoor space. So last summer, after years off as a gardener, I decided to start a little victory garden of herbs and tomatoes in an old wine barrel. I picked up seedlings and soil from the local nursery, and I was on my way! Here is one of the delicious beauties I harvested:
Please support these organizations and others like them to help bring back the practice and benefits of gardening:
Roots and Shoots, LLC
Also, check out the book, “To Love the Wind and the Rain” edited by Dianne Glave and Mark Stoll. The book is a wonderful analysis of the relationship between African Americans and the environment in U.S. history, and specifically discusses the evolution of gardening.
Leave a comment and share your garden memories or aspirations!