The Power to Grow
What is the power of a place? Over the past months of engaging community voice through door-to-door conversations, in-depth listening circles, community roundtable discussions, and partner gatherings, we have gleaned significant data. Overall, it tells us that 94% of residents engaged would like to see an Urban Agriculture Collective farm site at Booker T. Washington Park. This includes: 511 individuals who signed the petition, 344 residents who took the survey, 107 community members who joined the roundtable, and 51 community leaders who engaged in in-depth listening circles.
The richness behind those numbers is rooted in the stories. The memories of Black community life centered around the park. Of working together against racial discrimination to build a space of belonging. Of building power to grow a legacy.
Weaving together community memory and vision, robust research, and understanding our history brought us to last week's Food Equity Initiative and Power to Grow presentation to City Council. We asked council: to support a UAC farm site at Booker T. Washington Park; to prioritize community planning for that space in the P&R upcoming strategic plan; and to add food equity goals in this year's city strategic plan. How their commitment evolves will become evident over the coming months.
In the meantime, we want to express our deep appreciation for the many partners and individuals who are supporting this effort. Each signature, each survey, each letter to council, each donation, each conversation—is moving towards reclamation.
In this month's FJN newsletter profile we share snippets of a few of the stories we have heard so far! We are excited for the many more to come.
Booker T. Washington Park has many memories from my childhood of families coming together for a good cause. Having a garden to share produce and enjoy seeing the “fruits of labor” in unity is like coming full circle from our past ancestors who took great pride in this park to make a positive impact.
Clockwise from top left: Food Justice Community Advocates, Apprentices, and partners come together to advocate for an Urban Agriculture Collective Farm at Booker T. Washington Park.
Clockwise from top left: Food Justice Network Team; Richard Morris; Michele Gibson; KJ Howard; Jeanette Abi-Nader; sharing quotes from residents; photo of the presentation guide; IRC New Roots partners with Quentia and Jeanette (on the right)
Honoring the Charlottesville Twelve
Ms. Elizabeth Taylor is one of the parents who courageously led their children—nine elementary students and 3 high schoolers—to integrate the Charlottesville City Schools on September 8, 1959. Cultivate youth food justice interns wanted to honor the legacy of the Charlottesville Twelve with a sundial at each CSG growing space.
This summer, the sundial was installed at the Greenbrier Elementary garden, which made it a perfect place to invite Mr. Charles "Alex-Zan" Alexander and his mother Ms. Taylor to speak with the 4th grade students at Greenbrier Elementary.
Sixty youngsters, who had learned about the twelve Black students who themselves were in school about 60 years ago, braved the intense heat to spend time with with one of the surviving 4 members of the Charlottesville Twelve. The Greenbrier youth heard directly from Mr. Alex-Zan and his mom about the experience of making history, and Mr. Alex-Zan encouraged the students to become trailblazers in their own right.
Thank you to Principal Fricke and the entire 4th grade team for welcoming us and helping us to commemorate this important anniversary!
Clockwise from top left: close up of Mr. Alex-Zan's name on the Greenbrier sundial; Cultivate staff members Yolonda, Leah, Shamera and Jordan pose with the sundial; sundial; Jordan poses with the sundial
Clockwise from top left: Mr. Alex-Zan shows the students a game; Mr. Alex-Zan speaks with the students about his experience as one of the Charlottesville Twelve; Mr. Alex-Zan's mother Elizabeth Taylor answering questions from the Greenbrier 4th graders; Jordan and Jenifer
Partners to Grow With
The Urban Agriculture Collective team is small this year. Amyrose, Jenifer, and Nik have been working hard to grow vibrant, healthy crops at the 6th Street, West Street, and CATEC farm sites. Sure, the staff and volunteers pitch in—but nothing compares to the day in and out of growing a farm. Thank you UAC Team for keeping us growing and for sharing the harvest with community members every week!
Thanks also to the many partners that grow with us. We recently joined Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) at their fall festival and hosted a community market, face painting, and lunch for all. It was great to see so many partners celebrating together.
The Cultivate UAC Team partnered with PHAR for a special Fall Harvest Community Market Day hosted at Belmont Park with face painting, produce from the gardens, and meals to go. The Bridge, The Free Book Bus, and The Front Porch are pictured here and are just a few of the many PHAR partners.
If you are interested in working with Urban Agriculture Collective as a volunteer, or would like to provide in-kind material support please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharing the Stories of Booker T. Washington Park - We asked, What inspires you about the vision of an Urban Agriculture Collective Farm Site at Booker T. Washington Park? Here is (some of) what you said!
- Access to to wholesome food for everyone and ESPECIALLY a place for folks to put their hands in the dirt, very healing!
Agriculture bring so many different people together who share a common interest and I think that's such an important part of community.
- The history of Booker T. Washington as a space for the Black community in Charlottesville is an important legacy. A UAC growing space at the park would extend that legacy and be an integral part of a modern reclamation of the space. Food is a human right, and the right to THE POWER TO GROW on public park is key for access to THE RIGHT TO GOOD FOOD.
- I love the idea of using public land for the public good!
- I'm inspired by the potential of an urban farm at Booker T. Washington Park to enliven the space and serve not only as a practical source of nourishing food, but also as a hub for community engagement with land-based processes and cycles of growth.
I strongly support initiatives that increase food equity, provide healthy options, and support local food production. I used to volunteer in a community garden, and currently support the Local Food Hub. There was a community garden in Charlottesville up until recently that was closed due to development, and that was such a loss. I'm happy to see there is a new location identified, and an initiative to get it going.
Love the idea of a farm space thriving alongside recreational activities and sharing food in community. Would love to see it as a place of beauty and foraging as well as a farm. Perennial foods like berries and asparagus and juneberries and flowers.
- Growing our food close to our homes builds our climate resiliency
The prospect of an urban farm at Booker T. Washington Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a beacon of inspiration, uniting food justice, racial equity, sustainability, and climate resilience. This envisioned synergy resonates as a testament to our commitment, cultivating not just nourishment, but empowerment and inclusivity. As the seeds of change take root, they intertwine to form a tapestry of justice, sustainability, and resilience, fostering a vibrant community that grows in harmony with both people and planet.
- To have this opportunity of cultivating historic land into something magnificent for the community as well as the expansion and accessibility of free, fresh produce for all along with the potential education that can come along with this garden!
This way to build a more resilient community, one that reclaims their rightful spaces and takes care of one another, is inspiring and more and more necessary in the face of climate change and systems failing us/failing to serve all of us in the ways we need and deserve
I think an urban farm at Washington Park is an excellent location, well suited to the surrounding communities and relatively close to the city center, making it convenient for the community, staff, and volunteers. Ideally, if a long-term commitment is reached for land use, the UAC can invest in more food-producing perennial plants and not just annuals.
Community gathering space! I would love to see a garden here. I live in the neighborhood and love the park. A garden is a great addition to the space.
- Urban farms are beautiful, educational and beneficial to people and the environment. Everyone in this country should have access to health, fresh food. And everyone should have the opportunity to observe and/or take part in the growing of food.
I am inspired by the push for reclaiming the land, which has historically been ripped from the hands of indigenous people and Black Americans in the name of settler colonialism and gentrification. Urban farming is an innovative approach to food insecurity and the renewal of Black communities.
Clockwise from top left: The Power to Grow Community Roundtable hosted August 15 at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center; Jenifer Minor & Karen Washington; Shamera Banks & Zamear Stinnie; Quentia Taylor; images of leadership cards; Michele Gibson & Josephine; Quentia with her parents; Yvonne Carey, Shamera Banks, Aleen Carey, and Jeanette Abi-Nader; Roundtable in action; Bread & Roses, IRC, & Local Food Hub partner tables.
At Cultivate Charlottesville we believe that working together to grow gardens, share food and power, and advocate for just systems cultivates a healthy community for all.
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