MOD Society Magazine Triad: July/August 2022 Triad: July/August 2022 - Page 45

“ People are really growing , and as cliched as this sounds , they ’ re getting back in touch with nature .”
“ I love to garden , and it had been a dream of mine to have a garden where I can give food to people ,” he says .
PDY & F started with a small group of volunteers and an even smaller budget . They built beds in December 2020 and planted their first crop . But as any gardener knows , things don ’ t always go according to plan .
“ We got a recommendation for some dirt , so we got that dirt , and long story short , it was trash dirt ,” James says . “ Nothing grew — it was bad . But we learned a lot , and we started planting again around February and March of 2021 .”
This time , the plants took off , and the garden began food distribution to the community . As word spread , the garden ’ s reach expanded exponentially . In addition to an influx of volunteers , PDY & F received donations of nonperishable foods and even struck a partnership with K & W cafeteria to provide hot meals to those in need during the pandemic .
“ Between that and the buzz on social media , people just started coming out and helping , and we got a lot done ,” James says . “ We surpassed our goal of providing 100,000 meals — we reached around 104,000 .”
And that was just the first year of the garden . In 2022 , PDY & F aims to serve 200,000 meals to the community through its food pantry , garden and other outreach efforts .
While feeding the community is the goal , James says the education aspect of the garden is almost as fulfilling for him . Seeing members of the community who receive produce working in the garden , growing and harvesting their food , while also learning how that process works , has been rewarding .
“ That ’ s been the most satisfying part of this whole process ,” he says . “ To see children come out and play in the dirt and plant seeds , watch things grow , ask questions and be wowed by different natural processes like composting . People are really growing , and as cliched as this sounds , they ’ re getting back in touch with nature .”
James says he ’ s watched so many volunteers fall in love with the process of gardening and gain a new sense of confidence and control over the food they eat .
“ People are really growing , and as cliched as this sounds , they ’ re getting back in touch with nature .”
“ The day that we live in now , nobody knows where their food comes from , the process of how it gets to their plates ,” he says . “ We ’ re able to actually show them how to do these things in their own backyard ,” he says . “ And most people who ’ ve never gardened , they say , ‘ I feel like I ’ ve been doing this all my life .’”
James also sees the garden as an opportunity to improve the nutrition and health of those it serves , many of whom live in food deserts — areas without easy access to quality , highnutritional-value foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables .
“ We ’ re trying to replace the high sodium , the canned goods and the preservatives with these organic vegetables ,” he says . “ I have the privilege of being able to go to Whole Foods , or I could even pull up my phone and have Whole Foods delivered to my front door . But the people we serve don ’ t necessarily have that privilege yet .”
As the community garden continues to expand , the next frontier is a greenhouse that will allow James and his team to cultivate vegetables year-round through aquaponics . The process combines hydroponics — raising plants in water — with aquaculture , or raising fish or other marine life in tanks .
“ The greenhouse is really the next innovative thing we ’ re doing ,” James says . “ And that ’ s really going to change the game . Not only in terms of the amount of food that we can produce , but the education bit — my goal is to have a system where students can come work in the garden , work in the greenhouse and leave with a license to practice aquaponics or horticulture .”
Looking back on the tremendous success the community garden initiative has achieved over the past two years , James feels grateful to be part of something that is bringing meaningful change to so many people .
“ All the blessings that I ’ ve gotten as an individual and that the organization has gotten based on the work we ’ ve done , I can really pinpoint it back to our purpose , which is to serve the community ,” he says . “ And that ’ s why God keeps us going .”
For more information , visit pdyandf . org – Jennifer Bringle , editor-in-chief