The UC Santa Barbara Black Women’s Health Collaborative hosted its first-ever gardening event on Jan. 20 at the vegetable garden in front of St. Michael’s University Church in Isla Vista.
Around 20 students congregated to establish plants in two raised beds provided by the church and that is solely dedicated to Black community members in I.V.
The Black Women’s Health Collaborative (BWHC) invited Petrona Garcia, a fourth-year sociology and feminist studies double major, to lead workshop activities and lend her expertise as a garden education coordinator from the Edible Campus Program – an organization partnering with neighborhood gardens to address local food insecurity.
Fourth-year sociology major and BWHC Co-Chair Halle Dawite helped organize the gardening workshop in the hopes of building a community of Black non-men and connecting students to natural foods.
“Our entire mission is to make sure that Black non-men are enjoying themselves and having fun and building community through events that we believe are here to both raise political consciousness but also just [offer space to] relax, rest, laugh,” Dawite said.
Dawite kicked off the event with a speech, in which she urged participants to take back “control over the food we eat” by engaging in local, sustainable gardening.
“I’d like you all to think about the importance of having the power to choose and grow the food that we consume, the way that capitalism robs us of the opportunity to be connected to the process of how the food we consume gets on our plate and in our stores, how we can get away from the constant stresses of everyday life through gardening, and how we can sustain community through sustaining ourselves and our bodies,” Dawite said.
Dawite described larger Black-centered community farms, from which BWHC drew inspiration for its own event.
“We took a lot of inspiration from the Soul Fire Farm, which is an amazing Black- and Indigenous-centered community farm in New York that is dedicated to addressing food apartheid, reclaiming their right to the Earth and its care and cultivation, sustainable agriculture, land back initiatives … and doorstep harvest deliveries for families in food insecure areas,” Dawite said.
“Their programs reach thousands, and while we may not be thousands of people, we can still make change in our little community,” Dawite continued.
Attendees first tended to the planter boxes, rooting out weeds in the overgrown beds that had gone largely unused during the pandemic. Next, they planted among them seeds of different vegetables and herbs — broccoli, parsley, lettuce, tomato varieties, beets, radishes, cabbage, chives and wildflowers.
Students filled their seeding kits with soil and added the seeds, burying them partway underneath the soil. Garcia then helped students, who formed a line by the gardening hose, to water their seeding kits. The group also transferred seedlings of strawberries and other plants to the raised beds, pouring in soil fertilizer and watering the large beds.
All the seeds and gardening equipment were provided communally by the Edible Campus Program.
Dawite expressed her happiness with the workshop, which successfully brought students into the outdoors and provided a relaxing and educational environment.
“This is fun and therapeutic. I don’t really know a lot of students that have the chance to even be engaged in gardening in how busy we are with our classes and our extracurriculars and work, and this was just a nice event to slow down,” Dawite said.
Dawite finished the event by handing out gifts of clay pots to the attendees for at-home gardening use. The BWHC also organized a GroupMe for Black students interested in meeting regularly to tend to the garden.
“Just getting out and having fun is a form of resistance in and of itself,” Garcia said.
A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the Jan. 27, 2022, print edition of the Daily Nexus.