Saturday, November 26, 2011

Refugees Use a Garden to Cultivate More Than Just Food

My daughter and I have started preparing my balcony for our spring planting. We have already started some colder-weather seeds outside. I may be a bit optomistic; but, the weather is so mild I couldn't resist.

There are few things in life I am more passionate about than gardening and nature. Faith and I try to grow crops that are bee- and butterfly-friendly in an effort to help naturally maintain the winged pollinators in our area; and, we have a mason bee hive out there. Granted, we only have a balcony to work with; but, it's amazing what can be grown out on "the back 40" if you plan well and get creative.

Obviously, the people at The Perennial Plate are as passionate about growing and harvesting your own food as I am. This group is exciting, forward-thinking, creative and flourishing. Read on for a small ray sunshine in environmental news.

Photo courtesy: The Perennial Plate/video screen capture

It is almost a cliche that community gardens bring people together and help bridge cultural divides. But it's true. There is something about the act of gardening that emphasizes our shared heritage as human beings, even as it expresses our differences in terms of what we grow and how we eat. From the awesome urban farmers of New Orleans to a youth program bringing young farmers together across cultures, The Perennial Plate has explored the cultural benefits of community gardening many times before. Here, the visit with a Bhutanese family in Atlanta and learn how refugees from around the world are coming together to grow food from their homeland.

Photo courtesy: The Perennial Plate/video screen capture

Providing a growing space for refugees from Burma, Nepal, Iraq and elsewhere, the Jolly Avenue Community Garden is a program of Friends of Refugees in Atlanta. The idea, according to the group's website, is not just to build community, but to help alleviate past trauma too:
While we entertain some dreams of sustainable agriculture and small-scale agri-business production, we take great satisfaction in our primary garden product: Community. Nothing says “friendship” like working alongside each other, learning from one another’s techniques, and sharing space together in a collaborative and creative way. And nothing says “dignity” like having access to a piece of land and being free to do with it what you like. Many have observed that gardening can be powerful therapy for those who have experienced trauma and psychological pain. We have such hopes for our friends who are gardening with us.
Photo courtesy: The Perennial Plate/video screen capture

As with their videos of cave dwelling farmers in Utah, Vietnamese fishermen in the Gulf and conservative Christian dairy farmers in Ohio, this is another valuable reminder from The Perennial Plate that the local and sustainable food movement stretches way beyond the somewhat homogeneous demographics of many of our farmers markets and food coops.

If we're going to build a movement, we have to make it broad. Luckily, that movement appears to be growing itself.

The Perennial Plate Episode 90: Refugee Garden from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

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