A Land Gourdian Perspective…
Growing up in Camden and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on a budget is difficult. Especially when you live in a food desert where a market or a grocery store that is a walk away from our homes is nonexistent. It’s even harder for people to be willing to talk about food apartheid and make a change within our community. The Resilient Roots Community Farm on 29th and Cramer provides just that. It’s a place where youth and community members can go to find an affordable alternative to the fruits and veggies found in supermarkets. It’s a place to connect with people from a physical distance while working on the land, harvesting for our mutual aid produce bags, or even during our rotations at the farm with our summer youth program.
I have been involved with VietLead since 2015 and every year I come back, I am given a new reason to stay. This summer I came back as a returning college student. I am working as a Land Gourdian at the farm. This summer I was given an opportunity to not only work on the land, but help with our mutual aid produce bags and to teach other youth about what we do on the land and why we do it. I was able to work alongside everyone to harvest produce such as collards, okra, hot peppers, tomatoes, kale, beans, and eggplants in order to fill up our bags as much as possible. These bags would then be delivered to people who have been affected by COVID and have requested aid for fresh produce. Being able to not only harvest and deliver these bags, but to be the one who would create our newsletters that were given with those bags and to call the very people that received these bags have been impactful. I was able to talk to people about how they are doing, what we could do to help in any way, and about how these produce bags have been able to help them out. Hearing about how helpful the newsletters and the produce bags have been has been very motivating, especially knowing that it is my very own community and city that VietLead has been impacting.
Not only have I been hands on with community outreach, but I have been working alongside the youths that are a part of our summer program at VietLead. There are three rotations for the youth program, cooking, harvest, and gardening. I co-facilitated the land rotation. I have been able to teach them more about not only my work at the farm, but how important it is for us to take care of the land itself. If the land is thriving, so are the produce that we grow on that land and give to our community members through the mutual aid produce bags. Some of the tasks we would do on the land are weeding, watering, pest control, landscaping, and maintaining plant health. I believe that making sure that the land is at its peak is one of the most important tasks. We make sure that the plants are thriving and that the weeds and pests that would compete with natural resources are controlled and not negatively impacting plant health throughout the farm.
Whether we are working on the land or harvesting and delivering produce, we are all working as a team together and strengthening our relationships with our community members in Camden. We want to create a bridge that would allow us all to work together to improve Camden and to educate one another. We do this through our newsletters, youth programs, social media, volunteer work days, and our end of the summer closing events. On the newsletters and social media accounts, we make sure to update our mutual aid recipients about the farm, possible work days, and even provide background info on the produce that they received for that week. We add information, such as were the produce originated, its taste, and any recipes that it could be used for. The youth program is a way to connect with high school students and educate them about our community and show them how they are able to make an important impact. They are able to take what they learn to use it as a tool to not only give back to their communities and families but to educate them on what Camden is lacking. They are able to show people that programs and organizations like VietLead exist. That’s what I did and what I continue to do at my own university. We also have volunteer work days and events that we invite community members to attend in order to build our relationship. VietLead makes sure that they reach out to the community in various different ways in order to not only create a better community but to invite people to join us in educating one another in food sovereignty and in the issues in Camden.
– Ashley, Land Gourdian (Summer 2020)
About the Grantee
VietLead is a grassroots organization that strives to improve health, increase sovereignty, and develop Vietnamese leadership in solidarity through intergenerational farming; youth leadership; health navigation; policy advocacy; and civic engagement. Our Food Sovereignty and community garden program was built from seeing how food is an important part of how refugees practice self-determination.