From the archives: April 11, 2011
The room was full at our second garden meeting! We met at Omoto’s apartment, one of the residents who attended our last meeting. This time we had five different families who were originally from many different countries. We had residents from Ethiopia, Sudan, Burma, and America all at the meeting. Also two family members attended to help with translation for Karen and Amharic speakers.
At the opening of the meeting, we ask everyone what their favorite vegetable or crop to grow was and the answers were: green peppers, tomatoes, grapes, mangoes, watergrass, and corn. Unfortunately, a few of the residents won’t be able to grow everything they wanted, like mangoes, due to Minnesota’s weather and climate, but we assured them that many crops do well in this area!
After general introductions we briefly talked about ground rules for the garden and any general questions the residents had about the project. One of Omoto’s nephews noted that it is really hard to find any land to grow on in Minnesota. He decided that he is going to help his uncle grow at this apartment complex even if he lives far away. This same thought was also supported by other residents at the meeting. This is important to note because all over the US in urban areas, people are struggling to find access to land to grow food. This is even more so for communities of color, indigenous communities, low-income residents, and recent refugee communities because these communities more often may be renting land and not have direct access to land or the area they are living is contaminated by our industries. The good news though is that there is a growing Environmental Justice movement in the United States that is fighting to make sure all communities have access to land, healthy food and healthy neighborhoods.
To learn more about Environmental Justice (EJ) see the followingwebsites: http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/ (The Government EPA EJ Site), http://www.ejnet.org/ej/ (A database of other EJ sites found online) or one of MN local EJ groups: The Environmental Justice Advocates of MN (EJAM) (http://www.ejamn.org/).
Once we were finished with that part of the meeting we went on to the best part…..picking out the plots of land to grow on. Since in the end we had three families confirm that wanted to grow this year, they were able to choose the best and biggest plots. Our garden space is about 45ftx60ft with families each having a 10ftx22ft plot. All of the families are very excited to start growing and as one participant exclaimed “I just want to know when can I start?!” The answer to that is May 1st, the day we will have our ground-breaking day at the community garden! So stay tuned for more reflections about that topic and others to come!