Monday, May 14, 2012

Harvest of Hope Food Garden Proves that Vegetables Don't Come from the Food City... Yet!


Over the years, many teachers have been shocked by the answer young students give to the question: "Where do vegetables come from?"

As she joined some of her New Vision Youth mates at the Harvest of Hope Food Garden, Zina Huff Taylor laughed at the suggestion.

"I always knew that vegetables come from the ground... after a lot of work," she says.

The New Vision Youth group was invited to grow two plots in the Harvest of Hope garden on Charlemont Street in Kingsport, and New Vision Youth Director Johnnie Mae Swagerty was only too happy to help the kids get the plots started.

"We had a food garden in Riverview back in 2005," she remembers, of which Zina and the other youth participated. "We had a master gardener from Eastman who showed us how to plant, gave us instructions on what to plant and what time of year. We went through a practice growing session before we planted anything, and the kids really enjoyed it."

Click here to see a slideshow of the New Vision Youth Community Garden.

"What's fun about it," Zina says, "is just knowing that once everything is ready to harvest, someone that needs food is going to get it.. that's the fun part. The first food garden was cool to work in. I really like the fact that all that hard work that you put into it, and seeing what it becomes."

That's the idea, says Jennifer Janus, a community volunteer with the Harvest of Hope.

"It's great to have people of all ages taking part in planting the food and the floweres, because this garden is a place where wisdom can be passed through the generations. It's a place where people can get to know each other.. there's a fellowship here. It's a good environment for people to grow plants and grow spiritually, too."

The thought that vegetables have to come from the ground first, to get through the grocery store to the dinner table, is a thought not lost on Janus.

"As fast-paced as society is these days, where food comes from can be lost on young people," she says. "We must pass that on. That's actually what got me interested in gardening.. just making sure that my children know how to grow food and where it comes from. There is something to be said for getting your hands dirty. The slower pace that the garden requires.. it teaches patience, it teaches prayerfulness, it teaches staying in touch with nature."

The New Vision Youth Garden plot will have tomatoes, bell peppers and onions. A lot of it will be donated to the Second Harvest and the Kitchen of Hope, both in Kingsport. Swagerty says, several items will also be given to seniors in the Riverview community.

"It was a good opportunity for us when the United Way invited us to be a part of the Harvest of Hope food garden," she says.


There will be plenty of love going into the New Vision garden. The youth group is reminded of the story of how principal V.O. Dobbins, Sr. would grow food behind his house on Dunbar Street in Riverview, and his sister Leola Allen, Gladys Blye, Reverend Stokley's wife, Mary Charles, Mary Moore, and some of the other mothers of the Central Baptist Church would can the vegetables to be fed to the children of Douglass Elementary-High School during the cold winter months. The canned vegetables would make up for a deficit in food received through the Kingsport Department of Education.

"The generosity and foresight of Mr. Dobbins is a great inspiration to consider expanding the food garden into other areas of the city," Janus says. "I think the more gardens we can get going, the more that people get to benefit, both from the harvest and from the knowledge of growing your own food and the community that a food garden produces."

"Until we can get the food garden going back up again in Riverview," say Swagerty, "we are naming our food plots the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Memorial Food Garden, to honor the legacy of him caring for the children of Douglass and the people of Riverview. He always made sure everybody in the community ate good and got fed. That was important to him."

"When it gets going, it's going to take the efforts of the youth, the seniors, the residents association, and other groups to make sure the food garden in Riverview is successful," Swagerty says. "It'll unite the community in many ways."

"A little sunshine these days, won't hurt anybody," she says, "and it will certainly help the food plants."

Zina Huff Taylor says it's also a good reminder to remember the good things that come from Mother Earth.

"Before the vegetables come from Food City, they come from hard work and the sun," she says.

"And from God."