Let Our People Grow
As Fall and Winter approaching, most farmers and gardeners are just concentrating on putting the land to rest for the cold season: planting greens, garlics, onions, or/and cover crops. In addition to putting Resilient Roots Farm to rest, we has been fighting to not lose our garden. At the end of October, tapinto.net released an article with the head line of, “Camden School District to Sell 12 Vacant Properties”. In this article, Camden School District stated that they will sell 12 vacant lots to unload $500,000 burden from annual budget due to insurance cost. The article also included a list of properties being sold and Resilient Roots was on that list. We had not received any notice before this and our community were upset and frustrated. After reading the article, we tried to contact the school district through emails and phone calls to figure out what’s happening. The school district responded, “The school district will transfer the community garden, which is located on a lot at the corner of Cramer and 29th streets, to Resilient Roots, a community group that has been maintaining the garden for over six years. Resilient Roots uses the garden as an educational safe space that employs high school students and provides fresh produce to the community”.
On (11/22/18), our youth leader Jefferson Salazar and Co Phuong, a community grower, testified at the Camden School Board meeting to hold the school district accountable for the farm’s lease. Jefferson testified, “I care about the garden because it has helped me mature as a person. Every Saturday, I work with Resilient Roots and it helps me grow and more as a person, the garden was what helped me build my character. The garden also helped me be responsible, think about life in different ways, and become the person that I am today. My friends and I have worked with Resilient Roots last summer and that got me thinking about how we are helping the environment in our community. We’re doing a lot of good in our community because we’re growing fresh vegetables to give out to the people that live around that area.”
“We thank the District for your support. We have not received any lease yet but look forward to it. We are also here to say why we believe it is important for not just us but for all communities to have control over these vacant lots…. The school district should care about this because we’re helping out other people and we want the best for our community….We believe in community control of land. We are requesting that we get the lease and ownership of that property and we believe that all the properties for sale should be prioritized for community control. We want the community to have control because we don’t want other people taking advantage of the land. We want communities to be able to care for the land and decide what benefits them the most, if it’s garden or community centers. It can be another way to have community control and have people working together.”
We will work to continue to make sure our garden receives a lease and are working with our students to look into land use in Camden and how more land can have community input. We are very proud of our student leaders and growers to advocate for our community and the importance of land to community health.
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.
Cohort: South 2
Funder: New Jersey Department of Health