“When you teach someone to grow a vegetable, you teach them to grow and change in life, and teach them to transform themselves as well as the land.” –Wanda Stewart, Director of People’s Grocery
The first time I stepped onto the Stanford Farm and walked through the neat rows of crops, I was captivated. There was something magical about such an open place in contrast with the buildings and construction work I usually pass on my rounds around campus. I felt distinctly present in the moment and grounded to the Earth. I was reminded that I was part of a larger world beyond my school life.
When I help out at the Stanford Farm today, I always find something very satisfying about digging and pulling at weeds until they finally give way. Even though my immediate actions are small, I know that the work I do will likely have a bigger significance down the line. With that personal experience, the stories of other community gardens in the Bay Area and how they impacted their visitors really resonated with me.
In East San Jose, a school garden serves as a respite from the struggles of the surrounding community, as well as a validation of cultural experiences that are often trivialized by those with more wealth and power. Similarly, the community gardens run by the People’s Grocery in West Oakland are not only a means to address the lack of nutritious, fresh produce in the midst of a food desert, but also a place for members of the community to come together to learn and grow and share their culture.
All of this leads me to believe that community gardens can perhaps be an effective place for building empathy and a better understanding of people with different experiences and backgrounds, as gardens have a special way of impacting people no matter their circumstances or location in the world. They remind us that, in the end, we all depend on the Earth; we are all a part of it and have the power to impact it in our own way.