The IDEP Foundation is a nonprofit based in Bali - Indonesia. This spring it used its Sow It Forward grant to build new staircases into their permaculture demonstration gardens and to repair fish ponds. Each year, the gardens welcome over 1000 students including many with special needs and its important that they have safe access to them.
Around the world, women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. They hold nearly half of all jobs in the US but fewer than 25 percent of STEM jobs. Given this imbalance, KGI was very happy to offer a Sow It Forward grant to Vermont Works for Women this spring to help them teach young women how to build needed structures for their gardens like raised beds, fencing, a new picnic table and a bench.
Nkechi Ibe (left) is from the town of Aba in the eastern part of Nigeria. She moved to North Carolina with her family five years ago. She began gardening in 2013. Prior to that, she had no gardening experience either in the states or in Africa.
When asked why she joined the project, Nkechi said that she wanted to grow healthy vegetables for her kids and that she wanted her kids to learn how to garden. When asked what her favorite thing is about being part of the garden, Nkechi replied “My okra! I eat okra a lot!”
Her oldest daughter Ogechi says she too has learned how to grow food, how deep to plant the seeds and she likes eating the fresh food. Her little brother Ikenna and sister Chesson love to fill the watering cans and help water their plot. They enjoy playing with the other kids that come to the garden. The family also like the potluck dinners held at the garden and the chance to socialize with the other gardeners. Nkechi really appreciated a clothes and toy swap that organized earlier in the season for families to exchange gently used items.
The Ibe family members are very happy to be part of the Growing Healthy Kids Community Garden and KGI is happy to support their community garden through a Sow It Forward grant.
All children should have a chance to see and taste where good food comes from and to play in a safe, healthy setting!
Let’s hear it for Carla who’s growing her first garden ever this year for herself and her daughter in Frederick, Maryland!
Together, they’re growing collard greens, sweet peas, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, and herbs. Their garden is located at Lucas Village, a public housing neighborhood that serves 92 low-income families, and is one of our 160 Sow It Forward grantees this year.
Located over a mile from the nearest grocery store, Lucas Village is considered a food desert which is complicated by the fact that many of the residents do not own a car and rely on family or friends for transportation. Over 90% of the families that live in the community receive some form of food assistance whether it is SNAP benefits, WIC, or both and make regular trips to the food bank to supplement their remaining food needs. The garden, in conjunction with various classes being offered, is helping residents become vested in their meals by learning where their food comes from and having the opportunity to grow their own.
Here at KGI, we’re very pleased to be able to help Carla and the other Lucas Village residents grow their own healthy foods. If you’d like to know more about their project, you can see their project page here: http://kgi.org/lucas-village-community-garden
I went outside this morning to put a couple letters in our mailbox and had one of those rare moments when I saw my own garden with a fresh set of eyes and actually liked what I saw. In case it’s useful, I thought I’d offer a few explanations of what’s growing on in this 10’ x 10’ plot.
Yesterday I wrote about how kitchen gardens can help rehabilitate those whose lives have derailed. Gardens also have the power to heal as is the case with US Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Rice featured in this photo with his wife Brittany.
Michael served two combat tours in Al Anbar Province (Iraq) and in Marjeh (Afghanistan) and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He sees gardening as therapy. Always willing to assist in anyway, Michael is seen regularly at the Federal City Community Garden ( see more about this KGI-sponsored project here: http://kgi.org/federal-city-community-garden ) helping the other gardeners design, plant and maintain their beds while still managing our three compost bins.
Since the garden’s conception, Sgt. Rice has played a leadership role in the garden’s operation. He has helped organize and has participated in three volunteer builds, which constructed a total of 41 cinder-block raised beds for active duty military, Reservists, Department of Defense workers, in addition to New Orleans Westbank residents, a population that has been traditionally underserved.
As Michael says “there is just something about putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually watching something grow from seed to harvest. You are creating and nurturing something absolutely beautiful. Gardening eases my stress and improves my mood while providing my family with fresh healthy food.”
"The sense of community that has developed from the Federal City Community Garden is phenomenal. Our gardeners have become like family," says Michael. And that family is about to grow: Michael and Brittany are expecting a new baby in July.
Kitchen gardens can feed people and beautify places, but they can also offer a chance at redemption as is the case with this Rhode Island prison garden which received a Sow It Forward garden grant this spring. While I could write more on this topic, the prisoners’ voices are more profound than mine:
“This program has allowed me to learn things that I never thought could be possible for a guy who has sold narcotics and helped to destroy communities. I intend on following up what I have learned from Kate and Vera on the streets to help give back and help in the positive development of the same communities I helped to destroy.”
“This is new for me, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn how to grow and maintain the garden, in a place of disarray and challenges. It gives me peace, and the ability to enjoy the fruits of my labor.”
“This garden project is the best thing I’ve been offered in many years. It has helped me with serenity; it takes me away from the prison, and brings me back to my childhood. We always had a garden in our yard.”
“In this environment, few opportunities arise where you can create or assist in the growth of new life…When I get out and rejoin society, the lessons I’ve learned in Garden Time will be a part of my life for as long as I have access to soil, seeds and sun.”
This year’s Sow It Forward grantees are starting to report back to us about their gardens and the people they’re reaching, teaching and feeding. Here’s an uplifting story from Hope Community (http://www.hope-community.org/), our grant partner in Minneapolis, MN. I love Ray’s last quote!
Ray was born in the deep country in Alabama in the 1950’s. His family grew all their own food and raised their own meat. One of 10 children, at age 4 Ray began carrying water to the large garden that sustained his family. “It was hard work,” he says. “We ate healthy, but we didn’t realize that at the time.”
When he was 10, Ray’s family moved to northern Illinois where his father and older brothers found work in the town factory. Removed from the land and the practice of growing their own food, the family’s eating lifestyle changed radically. Looking back, Ray sees this shift as one of the worst things that ever happened to him and his family. “We all got sick. All kinds of things: high blood pressure; high cholesterol; cancer; diabetes.”
Three years ago, Ray got involved in the healthy food work at Hope Community, located in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. It was his first return to the garden in more than 40 years. Last year, he began growing tomatoes and peppers in a 5-gallon pail on his apartment balcony; this year he shares a plot in a community garden at Hope.
At a community meeting, Ray spoke about his experience with people new to Hope’s work with food, health, and community: “When I started caring about myself, I started caring about other things, too – I started caring about other people, about my community.”
Here’s a picture from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent trip to the White House. I realize I’m kicking a hornets’ nest by posting this given how politically polarized a country we’ve become. Still, I think there’s something encouraging about two of the world’s most powerful leaders meeting in a kitchen garden under a sunny sky. One possible take-away is that we — Germans and Americans, Conservatives and Liberals, etc — have more things linking us than we have separating us. We can choose to focus on the former or the latter with two very different outcomes. I know which one I choose!