Poverty, Race and One Community Garden

Post by Ben Trolio

I yawned once. My mouth stretched in a colossal circle reflecting my sleep deprived state.  Last night had been filled with fun rather than sleep.   Before me lay the flat, green expanse of the Sycamore Community Garden and there was not a single visible reason that this land was special or different from the countless community gardens I had frequented before. For a second, I wished to be back in my downy, soft sleeping bag snoozing rather than be baking in morning sun.  A few minutes later, this thought would be long forgotten and replaced by a newfound awe and respect for the work being done at the garden.

The Sycamore Community Garden is tucked away on the tiny campus of New Hampshire Technical Institute.   The land for this project was donated by the college and turned into the most unique and important community garden in the entire state of New Hampshire. I do not exaggerate.  This piece of land is special not because of the soil productivity but because of the stories of the people who work there. The plots of this garden are farmed by refugees from all over the world.  Concord is one of the few places in New Hampshire that takes in people displaced by brutal wars that have ripped their lands apart.   For many of these people, Concord represents hope and an opportunity to leave terrible violence in the past.

Many of those who have overcome indescribable adversity to make it to the United States depend on this land for food and a better way of life.   One heartbreaking example of this adversity is a woman who had been separated from one of her children for over ten years. She was forced to leave her child behind in Sudan when their family suddenly became eligible at a refugee camp to flee to the United States.  She ultimately had to choose between saving her entire family from probable death or to wait for her child to return. At the time her child was accompanying their grandmother across the Sudan border because women were less likely to be killed by military forces if they were carrying a child.  This is a single snapshot of the terrible adversity that many refugees face just to get to this country.  This adversity makes gardening even more important for these people who have traveled across the world to start a new life.

This community garden is a bridge between the challenges that refugees face and hope for a better future.  This single piece of land is the only connection between nature and the refugees.  This community garden is a perfect example of a reality that many poor minorities face. The lack of connection with nature is a shock to many relocated people who spent their previous lives working the land.  This negative consequence is amplified by the fact that many refugees are still coping and adjusting to a new land. All people regardless of socioeconomic status have the right to a healthy environment and wholesome food. Our current society is structured to provide these services to only those with the most resources.  By supporting initiatives like Sycamore Community Garden we can begin to build a future not only free of fossil fuels, but a society that provides support to those who need it most.

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