On Sunday, June 14th I hosted an introduction to permaculture workshop at a local café called Grow 101 Garden Fete. This workshop was the final session of my pilot sustainability series, “We Know This Place: Reclaiming Sustainability”. The objectives of this series were to:
1) Promote awareness and re-connection of communities of color to concept of environmental sustainability as it relates to our lives; and to
2) Expose less-engaged communities to environmental resources, initiatives and opportunities in and around the city of Halifax
As an environmentalist who happens to be Black, I almost always find myself a minority in any environment related circles. I find it a shame that people of color are missing from these important conversations and opportunities and so I began developing this idea to begin discussing why we are not there are to get us more involved. A grant from a new youth-led initiative called BLLAC- Black Learners and Leaders Advocacy Collective, which offered small grants for young people to put community-positive ideas into motion, is what made me decide to act on my idea.
I held two introductory sessions with two different groups within the city where I talked about what sustainability- a bit daunting word- means on a basic level and where we discussed why non-white people don’t appear to have as much of an interest or presence in “green” activities and discussions in our communities. I had hoped to have three talks but the third one was cancelled. The group however was still interested in having a workshop in the future which is great to know.
Grow 101 Garden Fete was a final activity open to anyone who was interested. Most people I had spoken with showed interest in the examples of sustainability that involved growing food so, taking that to heart, I began planning how we could come together around this. Thanks to some willing volunteers and the Kwacha House Café, we made it happen.
The Garden Fete began with some spoken word by local poet, Joi ‘n’ Pain before we got into the verbal intro to permaculture by Greg of Sun and Soil Organic Gardens. It was really interesting to learn about gardening by taking cues from nature rather than by working against it as in conventional gardening. For instance, Greg talked about using a decaying tree stump to hold water at the base of a bed rather than having to bring out the hose. It made so much sense!
After the talk there were questions and a short game of trivia before we went out to the garden. There we saw the tools used for making beds and tending to the beds, learned about bed formation and got to plant some onions and tomatoes!
I’m really glad I had the opportunity to pilot this series. I have pages of reflections which will guide me in future work. As for the garden party, I hope that for those who attended, there was a heightened appeal to growing one’s own food in knowing the benefits for health, savings, and community-building. I also hope that getting the knowledge as well as the hands-on experience in the workshop made gardening something that they could really see themselves doing.