by Paula Fricke
Just over a year ago, before I could say NO, I became the Lead of MOJO's Environmental Justice Affinity Group (EJ)! I was looking forward to marching in protest, but I had no interest in a Community Gardening project and didn't really know what it was! Then an opportunity presented itself. Mayfield Baptist's affordable apartment housing, which MOJO supported financially, was progressing and there was interest in building a Community Garden because their Hidden Valley neighborhood is a food desert. Since I couldn’t say NO, I currently find myself in the most incredible, collaborative, multi-generational, multi-cultural, ever-expanding community I’ve ever been part of! My decision not to say NO is making a difference in my life. I have no doubt, if you Don't say NO, you can enjoy the same life-giving experience.
Find out more by talking with MPBC members. Deb and Ken Steiner and Lynn Gallagher are garden gurus and continue to be incredibly helpful. Over the past two months, over 40 volunteers from ten different groups have helped, including EJ members Amy Johnson, Rachel Hill, Kathryn Long, Eric Roberts, Robin and Mary Lou Buck, Sophia Bartholomew and Bob Scherrman, and Carol and Richard Pearsall. We’ve cleared the bush- like weeds, tilled the soil, added compost and tilled again, planted seeds donated by Renfro Hardware in Matthews and planted starter plants donated by Johnson C. Smith University's greenhouse. There are significant signs of new life growing in the gardens and inside of us. We invite you to come join this amazing, committed community, or start your own . . . just Don't say NO!
MPBC isn’t doing this by ourselves—we got connected! Dori Bowman, an EJ group member, attended an Edible Landscape community garden seminar and met Ebone' Lockett with Harvesting Humanity. Ebone' had worked in the Hidden Valley neighborhood for years and explained there were already 4 Community Gardens in the Hidden Valley neighborhood and one of them was across the street from Mayfield Baptist in Sugaw Creek Park!
The Health Department's Edible Landscapes put in 9 beds several years ago that had never been used. The Recreation Center staff was thrilled to have us plant them and informed us that a similar garden at MLK Middle School was available. We spoke with Merritt McCully (Mayfield CDC Director,) Ebone' Lockett (Community Organizer), Alvis James (Recreation Center Manager), and Jessica Savage (MLK Principal), to help us publicize a community garden meeting to determine which direction to go. One of the 23 folks who attended was Toye Watson with UNC-Charlotte. Like Ebone', Toye was a Godsend. She had UNC-Charlotte students available to volunteer through the school year at both gardens! The MLK Principal also had 6th grade science students available to help with their garden. Gardening has become both an inter-generational and an awesome mentoring opportunity.
Call any of the EJ members mentioned above to chat about our efforts and come join our growing community . . . just don’t say NO!