GR Black Urban Food Grower
All images were taken by Della Marie Levi and are photographs of her garden and items grown in and harvested from it.
In 2018, I began growing veggies and herbs in a few small pots. I was encouraged to do so by members of an amazing grassroots collaborative, the Program for Growth through a local nonprofit group, Our Kitchen Table. The Program for Growth was created at my place of employment, an elementary school in Grand Rapids, MI. Parents and guardians of our students are taught to grow their own food. After a summer of growing veggies and herbs, I caught the growing bug. I knew that in 2019 I would expand my garden but I didn't realize what it would look like or how it would truly effect me.
In May 2019, I purchased a few small raised garden beds to place on my deck. In them I planted banana and bell peppers, basil, and romaine lettuce. In June 2019, I had a 4x8 raised bed garden built on my property to expand my growing. Contained in it were collard and mustard greens, pickling, English, and burpless cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, lettuce, and kale. I have cared for my garden as if it were a child because it is very important to me. I have a great sense of pride in my garden and even become a student of horticulture, as well as studying the best methods to care for and maintain my garden spaces. Additionally, I have harvested so many beautiful items from it and been able to gift several to friends, family members, and coworkers. It is noted that my garden is not the largest, nor do I have a great deal of experience in this arena; however, I have a desire to grow, learn, and create meaningful experiences through my gardening journey.
My Why. Growing your own produce is magical. Not only does food taste better, but it also looks better. I also grow organic. I use all natural products and have had many successes along the journey. Sure, there have been some losses (i.e., some animal and his posse had a feast and devoured my collard greens, aphids and other pests have been problematic, and some plants yielded little or no produce) but the experience has been life changing. The other reason why I grow produce is to pay homage to my ancestors and elders. Black farmers were instrumental in the freedom movement for African Americans in America. Specifically, during the Civil Rights Movement, Black farmers allowed marchers to camp on and eat off of their land during the long journeys. Black people were not welcome in many hotels or restaurants and in order for the demonstrations to occur, protesters needed safe havens where they could eat and sleep and Black farmers provided this.
I have pledged to give away produce from my garden every season to show gratitude to the ancestors and elders. Additionally, I am in the process of finding heirloom seeds from Black growers and farmers to plant in my garden in order to continue to build upon their legacy. To date, I have located two authentic seeds that were contained in one batch, fish pepper and golden honey pepper which can be traced to Horace Pippin, a Black folk painter from West Chester, Pennsylvania gathered in the 1940s.
I look forward to sharing my future journey with you and encourage you to come along for the ride. Ase!
Della Marie Levi
© 2020 by Della Marie Levi
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