VietLead’s Resilient Roots Garden Building Beds and Community
When you drive past 29th and Cramer, one may easily pass and wonder “what are the blue barrels that are lining the fence”? To a stranger, it is an empty lot that was once an abandoned dump yard. Neighbors however, know that come March, elders and youth are found flocking to the land, digging and remounding eroded soil back into mounds to be planted in. Slowly, abundance of vegetables will emerge and visions of a garden become more evident. This has been the annual ritual for 7 years at VietLead’s Resilient Roots garden which has persevered with plants growing in only 5 inches deep of soil. The Vietnamese gardeners are refugees from the Vietnam War and it is on this land that they have found healing, control over growing own food, and reconnection to youth and neighbors.
Through the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network funding, we have been able to build raised beds, increasing soil depth from 5 to 12 inches, greatly increasing plant health, thereby increasing community’s ability to have healthy food access [Healthy Eating Strategy]. Additionally, over 50 community members have come during garden work days in the strenuous task of digging up soil, weeding, and filling raised beds [Active Living Strategy]. As one high school gardener shared, “I usually have headaches often but coming to garden with my friends and other people keep me much more active than I would be at home. Once I started working in the garden, my headaches are less frequent and I just feel happier. I love getting a good sweat in! It’s probably the most active thing I get to do”.
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