I had the pleasure of traveling to Fellsmere, Florida two weekends in a row to maintain the Fellsmere Community Garden, an ongoing project that provides a vital function to a community of farm workers who experience exposure to harmful pesticides while working in the fields to harvest the food we eat every day. The importance of the garden is that it yields clean and affordable food – for the people and by the people- without the fear of it being riddled with toxins. However, sustaining a project like this comes with certain obstacles, such as keeping people energized and motivated to do the work. Experiencing the ebb and flow of community involvement is completely normal, and is something we must address and adjust to.
This past trip, on June 14th, myself and six other YAYAs heard about the community engagement efforts that are taking place in Fellsmere. It brought about a very honest conversation on what will be the most effective way to reignite people’s interest in the garden. The important thing to remember isn’t how to get people to do what we want, but to learn from people and to provide them with the avenue to do what they want with the garden.
This has been, and will be, the ongoing conversation surrounding the challenges of encouraging people to feel a sense of ownership of the community garden so that they may experience the benefits of that ownership. I know that, for me, there is joy in feeling the soil between my fingers and being with the plants from little seedlings until they’re full grown. I feel a sort of parenthood knowing that the plants, with my care, will later mature and fulfill the needs of others in the community. Members of the community have also expressed gratitude for being able to have their own plot in the garden to maintain and grow what they desire or need most.
During the last few visits we were able to plant an abundance of okra and conquered a mountain of horse manure to use as fertilizer. After a couple trips to a nearby horse farm we were able to fill two trailers full of manure which we later used to fertilize all the plants in the garden. We managed to get a great deal of work done even after having to struggle with the weather. There was some heavy rain earlier in the day which made some of the soil too muddy to plant the okra. Once we finished Yolanda, the community garden organizer from the Farmworker Association of Florida in Fellsmere, invited us into her home for a delicious lunch where we chatted a little more about potential ideas for community engagement.
So, if it wasn’t evident enough, we’re always in need of more help! YAYA has grown to become part of the community by making monthly trips to Fellsmere and assisting with whatever they may need at the time. Be on the lookout for our next trip and get in contact with us. We provide car pools, there’s great food, and even better company. You can find details on our facebook page, twitter, and instagram!