Interactive Gardening: A Connection to the Community
My name is Anneisia Rogers, and I am a Mass Communications major at UNC Asheville. For my senior project, I was originally drawn to studying Environmental Justice. This is the idea that everyone should have equal access to environmental opportunities regardless of social factors such as race or class. A friend of mine told me about the community garden at Haywood Street Congregation, and how this church gives out the produce grown for free as an extension of their ministry. This information compelled me to partner with Haywood Street Gardens as part of my study so I could further understand the current food equity issue in Asheville, and how real solutions like community gardens could help. After working here as an intern for the past two weeks, I’ve learned that Haywood Street Gardens does much more than pass out food.
So far, I’ve been amazed by how this organization strives to connect with community. I had the pleasure of taking a tour with Laura Kirby. She helped me understand that while giving people food is an important part of this ministry, there is a bigger focus on relationships. I can see this through the Wednesday Welcome Table, which brings together people from different backgrounds to connect over freshly prepared meals. There is no stigma by making this program needs-based. By opening their doors to the public, it sends the welcoming message that everyone deserves healthy food and fellowship.
I noticed a similar message after attending the first gardening meeting of the year. The new garden coordinator Joan Pinegar aims to create a sense of community through her vision of interactive gardening. Not only can people take food from the garden, but they can learn the skill themselves either through volunteering at Haywood Street or by getting seeds to take home. At the garden meeting, we discussed integrating an information portion with the garden, so people can know when the produce is ripe enough to pick. In addition to passing food out, this would be a way that anyone could be comfortable enough to get vegetables from the garden at anytime. Through these efforts, interactive gardening emphasizes sharing resources and knowledge so anyone can have access to fresh food. It strengthens the community because it doesn’t let race and class become divisive factors. Instead, gardening serves as an equalizer between all types of people. It becomes a place where people can learn, interact with one another, and get fresh vegetables in the process. I look forward this upcoming gardening season and the opportunity to learn hands on how public gardens like this can help unify the community.