Dancing in the Harvest Moonlight

On Thursday, October 5th, the first annual Harvest Moon Celebration was held by Edible Campus UNC. It began at 6:00 with a performance by student band Watermelon Frisbee, who finished off their set with an amazing cover of Can't You See by The Marshall Tucker Band. This casual concert at the beginning gave everyone a chance to make their way up to the food and refreshments at the top of the theatre. This is how Hope Gardens got involved in the event. We had one table where we sold stickers and honey and another where Herban Garden hosted an altered (but delicious) version of Tea Time. There was also "famous sweet potato chocolate bread" that actually lived up to its name.

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The speaking began at 6:30 and a particular point of emphasis across multiple speeches was the plight of immigrants in the agricultural community of North Carolina. Andrea Reusing, the chef and owner of Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill, pointed out the abundance of undocumented immigrants in our state who harvest our food while they themselves remain food insecure. Two of the speakers, Jamil Kadoura and April Oo, were immigrants hailing from the Middle East and Burma respectively; each of whom shared their own unique experiences with food and agriculture as immigrants in North Carolina. These messages served as a powerful reminder of who we serve and and how far we still have to go to achieve agricultural stability in our state for ALL people. 

In addition to speakers, there were also poets who graced the stage to recite their food-inspired poetry. The standout was Jackson Hall, a masters student in folklore at UNC who gave the final performance of the night. I've never heard anything so poetic. It was hard to tell where his introduction ended and his poetry began, it all came out so naturally. When he started to describe the Black Forest cake that his grandmother used to make for him when he was a child, I'm almost sure my mouth was fully agape. Food is such an important part of the human experience and it's truly awe-inspiring to be so intimately exposed to the effect that it's had on the lives of others.

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The event was originally described as an evening of storytelling, spoken word, song, and sweet potatoes and it gave us everything we were promised and more. To the members of our organization, I hope you have a fantastic fall break and I encourage you to continue attending events such as this that promote sustainable agriculture and food insecurity. Even if they aren’t hosted by Hope Gardens, everyone serves to gain from the food groups on campus working together and supporting one another, especially those we aim to serve.

Do you remember the 1st Community Picnic of September?

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The first community picnic of the semester. A sunny Saturday at the end of September with just enough breeze and shade to make it perfect. Although the picnic began at three, final preparations took place the night before at the cooking party, a small gathering open to anyone in Hope Gardens willing and able to help. This particular cooking party was led exclusively by the Outreach Committee, who may not be the Nutrition Committee, but can definitely still hold their own in the kitchen. The only difficulty came with figuring out how to use fresh ingredients in recipes that called for canned goods. This problem, we realized, is one that people dealing with food insecurity often face in their efforts to eat healthier. It's a shame that even when fresh food is available, it's often difficult to know what to do with it; this is why programs like our own Hope Cooks are so important, they give people the context necessary to pursue healthier options. Using trial and error, we were able to figure out what worked and we started making green bean casserole and fig bars while listening to all the oldies music you'd expect a bunch of garden hippies to be listening to. It was a great way to end a long day of classes and practice our culinary skills in the process.

The picnic itself got off to somewhat of a rocky start when we learned that CEF, an organization that aims to address homelessness and poverty locally, was hosting another picnic that same day. A few people got back in time for pick-up so we ended up with a good-sized group of community gardeners, members of Hope Gardens, and people from CEF and IFC. It was an eccentric group to say the least. We never actually got the real name of one man, he simply went by Santa due to his long, white beard. Another man brought his adorable dog named Gizmo who's pictured to the right. A community gardener also played us Rihanna's entire discography and implied her superiority to Beyoncé (I'll resist the urge to launch into an entire paragraph debating that claim).

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Everyone loved the food, there were interesting conversations all around, and it couldn't have been a more relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Once everyone was finished eating, we brought out bricks to be painted for herb boxes that were going to be built during the next few garden workdays. Some of us finger-painted, others used brushes, and we all had a great time expressing ourselves artistically (even though some of them looked like they were done by toddlers a.k.a. just mine in the bottom right corner). In the photo below, you can see Outreach Co-Director Haley Stone's touching tribute to her cat Buttercup and Co-Chair Kristen Wagner's impressively intricate pink flower. All in all, the picnic was a blast and we'd love to have even more people at the next one in October (which may involve pumpkins so get excited)! Also, major respect to anyone who caught that Earth, Wind & Fire reference in the title.

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Countdown to The Great Carolina Cookoff!

Cube painting done by Kristen Wagner, co-chair and The Great Carolina Cook-Off organizer, with help from Mikayla Dorsey, Hope Cooks co-director.

The Great Carolina Cook-Off is happening this Thursday, March 30th, 2017, and in case you haven’t heard what the first annual Carolina Cook-Off is about, here’s an overview! Hope Gardens is putting on a cooking competition between multiple food access organizations, including Sonder Market, Edible Campus, Tarheel TABLE, FLO Foods, Carolina Cupboard, Carolina Campus Community Garden, and Growing Gardeners.  Each organization will prepare a dish for people to taste and vote on. The winning organization will receive a hefty $200 cash prize, which will help fund that organization’s food access efforts. Purchasing a Carolina Cook-Off ticket will also help Hope Gardens fund future projects to bridge food insecurity.

Not only will you get to eat a delicious dinner and support your community for just $5, but at 7:30 pm, you will also get to hear Professor Molly De Marco host a talk on food access and insecurity in North Carolina.  So where can you get these Carolina Cook-Off tickets? They can easily be purchased by clicking here, stopping by the Student Union Box Office, or meeting us at the Pit from 10-2 pm between 03/27 - 03/30. Don’t wait too long though, because tickets become $6 at the door. We hope to see you there!

Music, Agriculture, and Activism Comes Alive at Herban SOAPBox

On Friday, February 10th, 2017, Herban Garden’s first installment of their three-part series, Herban SOAPbox, took place at the Sonja Haynes Center for Black Culture and History. The lively night started out with food catered by Vegan Flava Cafe and some mingling amongst various food justice groups. People also got henna art done at one of the tables. We then got down to business. By business, I mean an amazing ear and mind-opening performance from Tha Materials. The Durham-based band opened with their new song, “Layers”. Their soul-filled music sheds light on issues affecting the black community while also highlighting positivity and black culture. The main speaker of the night, Kamal Bell, built upon these themes as well.

Bell has many diverse roles he plays in his community that allow him to speak on a wide range of issues. As an entrepreneur, he faced difficulties in starting up his own farm business, from securing a loan, to being discouraged by an academic advisor. His academic advisor’s idea of farming having “no money” in its future is not uncommon. Bell strives to dismantle this stigma around agriculture, as farming is a way of self-sufficiency and ensuring the health of our future generations. He mentions how this stigma plays into the reason our current society does not raise another generation of farmers, creating a rise in urban food shortages. So he targets the future generation directly as an educator and as an activist.  Bell’s small agriculture academy at Sankofa Farms is a program where urban youth learn and grow together. Not only is it an opportunity for them to gain farming and leadership skills, but it is also an opportunity to tackle systemic barriers that work against African American youth. The kids come from areas of food deserts where healthy alternatives are not widely available or affordable, but to get them to Sankofa, they are in need of a new van.  A Kickstarter campaign was made to fund needed transportation and to expand their vision, which you learn more about here!

Overall, it was an amazing experience hearing Bell talk about what he does and what he sees. It truly made me more passionate about increasing food access and community involvement. If you want to join in on this event, come out on Feb. 17th at the Genome Sciences Building, G100 Auditorium, and on Feb. 24th in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at UNC. The event takes place from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM and is free for all!

 

 

With a New Semester Comes New Opportunities to Get Involved

If you came out to Campus Y’s spring semester open house on January 25th, then Hope Gardens might have had the chance to talk you!  The open house gave a glimpse into the multiple organizations at UNC that is connected to Campus Y, the university’s hub of social justice and innovation.

The packed crowd that came on Thursday shows the passion UNC students have for committing to make a difference, and we were happy to see that! One way to make a difference is by addressing the needs of the Chapel Hill area surrounding food insecurity. Hope Gardens approaches this issue using sustainable agriculture and tools to get the community involved in growing at our garden down on 2200 Homestead Rd. New members are always welcome to help further our mission. If you couldn’t get the details of what else Hope Gardens does, no problem! Come down to our weekly general body meetings at 1789 Ventures (next to Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe on Franklin St.) on Tuesdays 7:15-8:15 pm and come join a workday at the garden on Saturdays 10 am - 12 pm. Rides are provided at 9:45 am in front of Campus Y.

 

Food 360

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      Just two weeks ago on October 26th, Hope Gardens came out to talk about local food sustainability and food security at Food 360, also known as Food Day! Other organizations dedicated to advocating for healthier and easier food access were also present, such as TABLE and Edible Gardens. The event provided a wide number of resources for students to not only learn about food, but also to eat it! At our own table, we explained how we try to combat food insecurity in Chapel Hill with programs such as Hope Cooks where we cook with families at Homestart, (a local women’s shelter), and how we try to further education in sustainable gardening through our workdays where individuals and organizations can come out and engage in sustainable practices. While listening to all this wonderful information, students could nibble on some delicious persimmon bars made by Hope Garden member, Cassidy H.! 

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       We also decided to dedicate some time to shed awareness on the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew. Haiti was hit particularly hard having a death toll of approximately 500-800 people. Residents in North Carolina also felt Hurricane Matthew’s impact with 11 people dead and many without electricity or running water. Hope Gardens and Herban Garden decided to donate the proceeds of t-shirt sales from Food Day to relief efforts. A big thanks to everyone who was able to donate!

First Workday of the Semester!

Hope Gardens kicked off the first official workday of the school year on Saturday, August 27th. We had a great turnout including not only some familiar faces but also a ton of new people as well. Shout-out to all the first-timers who joined us on Saturday - we hope you enjoyed yourself and will see you again soon! As is our custom here at HG, we began the day by circling up for introductions and answering the icebreaker question: “What fruit or veggie would you ride into battle?” A tomato? A radish? A pineapple, perhaps? Here at Hope Gardens, we take our produce VERY seriously.

A lot was accomplished during the workday, and we thank everyone who came out to help! Progress was made on the construction of the fence that keeps Woody (our resident groundhog) and other wildlife from nibbling on our produce. Other tasks included weeding between the community garden plots and laying down mesh to prevent future weeds from popping up. A community gardener helped us out by hosing the weeds down first to make them easier to pull out, but by the end of the day, everybody wanted a “garden hose shower” to knock off the summer heat. In the midst of gardening, we also spotted a small bunny hopping through the plots before it dashed out of sight. Probably not the best thing for our plants, but great for getting your daily dose of cuteness!

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The workday wrapped up with a quick seed workshop where gardeners had the opportunity to plant cucumbers and green beans. As someone who knows very little about successfully growing things, I was amazed that the two types of seeds were planted in different ways. The green beans were planted in a straight row about 1 inch apart from each other, while the cucumber seeds were planted in a zig-zag formation with 3-4 seeds per hole. As a novice gardener, I love that I’m always learning something new at workdays! It’s not only fun but also a great way to expand your own gardening knowledge. With a little luck, the tiny seeds we planted Saturday will be producing fresh veggies in just a couple of months!

As I got ready to leave, I took a quick walking tour of the garden to see what our community gardeners are growing. Below are some pictures of the beautiful and delicious things taking root at Hope Gardens right this second.

Want to see if you have a green thumb? Wishing you could see our beautiful garden firsthand? Join us at our next workday on Saturday, September 10th!

Love what we do but don’t want to get your hands dirty?

Our general body meetings will be held every Monday at 7:15 pm in 1789 Venture Lab starting September 12th. We hope to see you there!

Hope Gardens at the Science Expo

If you couldn’t BEE at the Science Expo, here’s what you missed!

Once again, Hope Gardens joined the UNC Science Expo on April 9th for another year of interactive and educational fun! This free event welcomes people to learn and experiment with a range of topics in STEM. Hope Gardens centered our exhibit on spreading awareness about the significance of bees.

The event was a blast as we had fun showing people the steps involved in harvesting honey and letting them try out the equipment used in the process, including trying on a real beekeeper suit! People also got a taste of our delicious wildflower honey harvested from the hive at the garden! We currently have two hives that hold around 40,000 bees each and is maintained organically. But, if you couldn’t make it out to the expo, don’t worry! We just harvested more honey that will be up for sale! You could also come to the garden at 2200 Homestead Rd, Chapel Hill on a Saturday workday and ask to check out our hive. As always, workdays are 10-12pm and open to everyone!

Most importantly, however, is at that families, kids, and people of all ages were able to see how essential bees are as pollinators and producers of the honey we love at this event. Unfortunately, they are declining at alarming rates, due in part to industrial agriculture and the use of bee-killing pesticides. To ensure that we protect these amazing creatures, consider buying local, organic honey, avoiding pesticide use, and planting bee-friendly flowers (learn more about bees here).

Shiitake Mushroom Workshop

       A community member taps a dowel into her                                      mushroom log.  

       A community member taps a dowel into her                                      mushroom log.

 

On Saturday, March 26th, one of our very own talented gardeners Jeremy Rushlow led a hands-on Shiitake Mushroom Workshop at Hope Gardens. The workshop was conducted from 2-4 pm, and was open to amateur gardeners, seasoned growers and mushroom lovers alike. At this event, participants were instructed in how to inoculate their very own Shiitake mushroom logs, as well as how to harvest their mushrooms in the future.

The logs used in this workshop were from Sweet Gum trees that were downed a few weeks in advance, giving the antifungal compounds produced by the tree a chance to break down. If this step is skipped and a new log is inoculated right away, these chemicals could attack the mushrooms, so this step is very important! Once the logs are ready to go, holes are drilled into the bark and wooden dowels containing Shiitake mushroom spawn are gently tapped inside. These holes are then covered with wax to seal in moisture and create an ideal growing environment for the mushrooms. Amazingly enough, this process only takes about 15 minutes - and when you’re done, you have the beginnings of your very own mushroom colony!

   Jeremy demonstrates how to drill the holes for the                                  dowels into a log.

   Jeremy demonstrates how to drill the holes for the                                  dowels into a log.

By the end of the day, the Shiitake Workshop participants had not only gained valuable insight into the art of growing and harvesting mushrooms, but also had successfully inoculated 13 mushroom logs! Through this workshop, community members added a fun (and yummy!) skill to their gardening repertoire. And since the finished mushroom logs can fruit up to five times a year, these growers can cultivate garden-fresh mushrooms all season long. Talk about tasty!

Wish you were at this workshop? Want to amp up your gardening game? Join us at one of our garden workdays held every Saturday from 10am-12pm, or weekly meetings held every Monday at 7:15 pm in 1789 Venture Lab. We can’t wait to meet you!

Hope Gardens Continues to Establish Campus Presence and Encourage Sustainable Practices

As April approaches, Hope Gardens seems to be getting busier and busier from events at the garden to events at UNC’s campus and beyond. With each event, we strive to work towards our mission of increasing food access in a sustainable manner, so please stay tuned for more of our upcoming events and updates. We always appreciate your contributions and interest!

Here’s a look back to just a week ago where Hope Gardens participated at the “Eating to Make the Earth Last” event that was featured on Campus Y’s social justice blog, The Arc. To learn more about the event and our involvement, please click here!

More importantly, the article was written by one of our very own development team members, Laurel C.!

 

 

Hope Gardens at Hillel

Recently, Hope Gardens was invited to spend the evening with Hillel for a round of insightful discussion and dinner. The event took place during their weekly Friday dinners but had a specific focus for the night: social action and justice. Other organizations present include UNC’s Heelraisers and FLO Food. 

The event started out with light conversations and a warm welcome from the members at Hillel. Hope Gardens gave a quick introduction about what we do to help increase food access, mentioning our HopeCooks Program, which hosts cooking sessions with low-income participants, and our Outreach committee, which hosts free community dinners. We then moved into separate groups that each had a discussion topic facilitated by a Hillel member. The one we attended dealt specifically with how social action and justice affect a community and a society. Together, we defined what community and society meant to us and talked about “Tikkun Olam,” a Hebrew phrase which means to perform acts of kindness to help better the world. I feel this is what Hope Garden strives to do, and the additional insight from everyone participating made us really think about the different aspects of social justice. This included discussing the benefits of being involved in various acts of social justice, as well as the unintended implications that those acts may bring.

The night concluded with a delicious dinner full of healthy foods. Here, we were able to talk more intimately with one another under a very lively atmosphere. Overall, we were really thankful for the opportunity to join Hillel in discussing what we are most passionate about. It was a way for us to meet new people, share ideas, and learn about community service opportunities in Hillel as well.


Hope Gardens Receives Bridge Builder Award at MLK Day Memorial Banquet

Earlier this month, representatives of Hope Gardens had the honor of attending the Annual University Martin Luther King Jr. Day Memorial Banquet and Award Presentation. This event was held the evening of January 17th in the Friday Center for Continuing Education, and celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by honoring individuals and organizations whose actions reflect a commitment to serving their local community.

A highlight of the banquet was the powerful keynote speech given by Dr. Rosalind Fuse-Hall, President of Bennett College and proud UNC alumna, titled “A Dream Deferred: The Time is Now”. In this speech, Dr. Fuse-Hall spoke powerfully on the importance of youth being both allowed and encouraged to pursue their dreams and passions from a young age. Her point was driven home with moving quotes from the Langston Hughes poem “Harlem (Dream Deferred)”, which painted a picture of the consequences of a dream left unfulfilled. She also stressed the unsettling fact that a large percentage of minority youth doesn’t have access to the American dream due to a lack of resources and support. Dr. Fuse-Hall concluded her speech with a powerful call to action, urging every American to not only do everything within their power to make their own dreams a reality, but to help others reach their dreams as well.

During the award presentation portion of this event, Hope Gardens and Heavenly Groceries each received the “Bridge Builder” awards, which recognize organizations that have built meaningful, positive relationships with their surrounding community. Hope Gardens was honored to be recognized for our efforts to combat barriers to food access in the Chapel Hill community, a mission which manifests itself through our connection with the Interfaith Council Shelter, Homestart Women’s Shelter, and our community gardeners. Co-chairs Sierra Houck and Sierra Dunne were proud to represent Hope Gardens at this special event (see picture below). This award is a testament to the positive impact Hope Gardens has on the greater Chapel Hill community, and we thank each and every member for all of their hard work in making this happen!


Hope Harvests

Saturday, October 24th was a perfect fall day – unlimited sunshine and crisp temperatures in the mid-70s. We could not have asked for better weather to spend the afternoon eating yummy homemade food with all of our Hope Gardens and community friends at our Hope Harvests event. This event was a winning combination of delicious food, fun outdoor activities and having a generally great time with friends both old and new, and was open to anyone in the Chapel Hill community who wanted to come. On the menu was one of my personal favorite sweater weather combinations – homemade chili with cornbread. The delicious chili was even made in three batches: vegetarian chili, spicy beef chili, and non-spicy beef chili to satisfy everyone at the table. Also on the menu was a freshly made salad, split pea soup, roasted vegetables, and brownies. But the item I was the most excited about was a mysterious orange, gooey cake. I was surprised to find that this was actually a persimmon cake, made with freshly harvested persimmons from the Hope Gardens orchard. The typical reaction to this cake was “looks different but I’ll try it” followed shortly by a “wow, this is actually really good!” By the end of the meal, it was clear that this underdog dessert was a big hit.

As everyone’s stomachs got fuller, the conversation got livelier, with topics ranging from 80s pop hits to possible new Hope Gardens projects. What struck me the most about the conversation I heard was that sitting at each picnic table was a group of people who, until they sat down, had never interacted with each other before. Sure, within each group were a couple of people who already knew each other, but for the most part, the conversation that took place was between strangers. And yet, there was no nervous small talk or awkward silences - the conversation was as natural as the produce on the table. Everyone was eager to chat with people they didn’t know, to listen to each other’s stories and make new friends. This atmosphere of openness and authenticity really struck me as something special that isn’t always easy to find at social events.

As people finished up, groups began to migrate over to the various activities in the garden. One group started a casual game of Frisbee, another began tossing a football. The main event was decorating two big wooden boxes that will be used to house our new herb garden plots. Acrylic paints and brushes were provided and people were free to paint whatever they desired on the boxes. Results ranged from garden-inspired artwork to colorful abstract designs, each painting representing a different person’s ideas. Viewed separately, each decoration was a unique symbol of self-expression. Viewed together, the finished herb boxes were a beautiful representation of the diversity of the Hope Gardens community.

As the festivities wound down and people began to depart, it was clear that many new friendships had been formed. People who had entered the garden as strangers now waved goodbye to one another enthusiastically, big smiles on their faces. And that is what I thought was the real hallmark of a successful day – that a group of individuals from all walks of life was able to come together and share a meal and a few laughs, and even make some friends along the way. If you’d like to join our awesome Hope Gardens community, come to one of our meetings at 1789 Venture Lab on Franklin Street, held every Tuesday at 7pm! We love new people and look forward to meeting you!

Interviews: A Taste of Hope Gardens

Interested in Hope Gardens, but want to learn more?

Check out what these what these awesome gardeners had to say about the freshest place in Chapel Hill.

Interview with Lindsey Terrell

Q: Hello! First, can you tell me a little bit about your major and career aspirations?

A: Sure! I’m currently a senior double majoring in Global Studies and African American studies with a minor in Anthropology. Currently I’m considering going to grad school to get my master’s degree in Public History because I really love history and enjoy sharing it with others. I love going to museums, national parks and other spaces of public history and having the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom.

 

Q: How did you first get hear about Hope Gardens?

A: I had heard about Hope Gardens through my involvement in the Campus Y my first year. In the spring of 2014, I joined the TEDxUNC organizing committee and met Cade, who was a fellow Marketing and Publicity team member. I found out that he was a member of Hope Gardens and so I asked him about it. I came to the first organizational meeting later that year at the beginning of the fall of 2014 and loved it! Up to this point I had heard about Hope Gardens before but didn’t really know what it was all about, but the more he talked about it, the more interested I became. Shortly after, I came to my first meeting and was hooked! I’ve been involved ever since.

 

Q: What do you think sets Hope Gardens apart from other service-related organizations?

A: I really enjoy how Hope Gardens focuses on a problem that’s really relevant to the Chapel Hill community – food access. Hope Gardens directly addresses this problem not just by spreading awareness about food access, but also by going directly into the community garden and making a difference. I really like that we directly interact with members of the community as well, like our community gardeners and people from local shelters. It’s really cool to be part of an organization where you get to interact with people besides just other college students.

 

Q: What subcommittee are you most involved with and why?

A: Ever since the beginning, I’ve been the most involved with the Outreach committee. Like I mentioned before, my favorite aspect of Hope Gardens is getting to know the community, and this interest aligns really well with the mission of outreach. I definitely appreciate and enjoy the roles that Urban Farm and Food Access & Education play as well, but my interests and strengths connect me more to the Outreach committee. My main responsibility as part of Outreach is trying to get as many people involved in Hope Gardens as possible. A big part of this is spreading the word about HG through social media (posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), and making sure that Hope Gardens is always a fun and welcoming space for anyone who wants to get involved. We love getting new student members, but where we’re really trying to move forward is getting more non-student community members involved. One way that we do this is through our monthly community picnics.

 

Q: What is your biggest dream for Hope Gardens?

A: I would say that my biggest dream for HG is to see students, community gardeners, people from shelters, and people from all over the Chapel Hill community getting involved in Hope Gardens. I would love to see this already amazing organization grow to become a community in the true sense of the word – a diverse and close-knit group of people united for a common goal.

 

Q: What is your spirit fruit and why?

A: My spirit fruit is the strawberry – I love strawberries so much that I could probably eat my weight in strawberries! I also love the Beatles song Strawberry Fields Forever.

Interview with Madison Alexander

Position: Co-chair

Year: Senior

Major: Economics (religious studies minor)


Q: How did you get involved with Hope Gardens?

A: My spring semester freshman year, Catherine, whom I was friends with, told me about Hope Gardens and told me about what Hope Gardens was trying to do. I was interested and so I went to their first meeting of the semester and thought it was really cool. So then I started going to work days. I loved being able to get outside and stuff. Then fall semester sophomore year I became a full-fledged member, coming to all of the meetings and everything. It was sort of like a progression in that way.


Q: When did you become involved on the leadership team?

That spring, my sophomore year, which was 2014. I was treasurer.


Q: Had you ever done anything related to hope gardens before that, garden or non-profit related?  

A: Before Hope Gardens, I had never gardened. I didn’t really know anything about food access or food access issues. Basically in every way I was completely new to the whole idea. I had never worked in depth in a nonprofit organization. I was pretty new to the whole deal.


Q: Were there, or are there, any challenges to running a nonprofit?

A: So the summer after my sophomore year I was the summer garden manager, and we had a full staff, a full summer staff, which would have been six people. We were trying to do everything that we do during the rest of the school year but there were just six of us. And I was running it so there were a lot of responsibilities that I had never had before. So it was exciting but also kind of terrifying at the same time.

So between that summer and the time I’ve spent as co-chair I’ve learned a lot. I think the things that I didn’t really expect to learn has been making connections with people- with students and also with people outside the university. And learning that I have the ability to coordinate those kinds of things and have meetings with important people. I’ve never really been the “idea person,” but I think I've gotten pretty good at taking an idea that someone has had and making it happen. And I think that’s the coolest thing I’ve learned while helping this organization.


Q: What are you goals for Hope Gardens?

A: That’s a tough question. I’ll give you my simple answer. One of the things I like a lot about Hope Gardens is that because of the turnover of students we have every year, we get to introduce a lot of new students into the organization and into the issue. We also get introduced to a lot of new things, like a lot of new ideas and projects that we can do. So it’s hard to know exactly what this is, but I think the thing I want for Hope Gardens is for that to continue.

One of the things we hear when we meet with the town, the parks of rec, or board members, is that when this started, when they were introduced it, they were like “it’s a great idea but won’t last long because of the nature of the organization and the nature of student life.” But it has for eight years already. So my vision- my biggest goal for the organization- is to continue growing to continue building on campus and community- and getting better and better, always getting better at what we are trying to do.


Q: If it does, how does this organization relate to your studies/interests?

A: It hasn't really directly related with my studies. But it definitely relates to what I want to do in the future. It has actually kind of affected what I want to do in future, given me a better idea. I want to work in nonprofits, and specifically I am really interested in outdoor education and want to get involved in one of those organizations, and hopefully at some point help run one. And i think everything I’ve learned in Hope Gardens has significantly prepared me for that type of future.


Q: What is your favorite thing about Hope Gardens?

A: I like getting to see what we as humans are capable of doing. And that is everything from planting a seed and seeing it grow into a huge plant with lots of food that we can share... Anywhere from that to being us as a group doing what we’re trying to do. And seeing its impact is really really cool.


Q: What is your spirit animal and why?

A: I have never been able to figure this question out. The closest answer I have is a black bear- specifically a black bear- because black bears are typically known as crafty and creative and will get things done however they need to get done- as in they can figure out ways to get food. They are generally kind and sweet until something they care about is in danger. And then they become super feisty and protective. And I’ve been told that’s a characteristic of mine.


Q: What is your spirit vegetable or fruit and why?

A: I’m gonna go with a citrus of some kind - a tangerine… I don’t have as extensive reasoning, but what I’m thinking is that I’m somewhat tough on the outside and then kind of soft and emotional on inside. But I’m also fun and exciting.

September 2015 Potluck

“You’re giving a part of yourself when you grow a plant and give it to somebody else.” -Art Scarpa

Hope Gardens kicked off another school year of giving and growing with a potluck this past Sunday. Before I say more, let me just make your taste buds a little jealous.

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The bok choy, lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes all came from about ten yards away from where this picture was taken. (That’s closer than my refrigerator is to my dining table.) Those beans, too, are right from the garden- chinese yardlong beans from a community member’s plot (if you don’t know what yardlong beans are, they are literally a yard long. How cool is that?). Organic apples, garlic bread with garden chives, baked pasta, apple crisp… If you are feeling like you missed out, don’t worry, there will be more potlucks to come, and everyone is welcome! :)

The afternoon started out in the much-appreciated shade next to the pond (part of the 14-acre green space Hope Gardens is part of). Students, members of the IFC men’s shelter, and other Chapel Hill community members gathered around picnic tables, taking in the tranquility and enjoying good company (and food, of course). A member of the IFC men’s shelter gave me a music history lesson, sharing his extensive knowledge of bands from the 60’s and 70’s. He played some Genesis songs and sang along, his singing skills equally impressive as his music knowledge.

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I wandered into the garden area with two community gardeners, who showed me their thai basil, tomatoes, peppers, okra, and, of course, chinese yard long beans. (“They’re escaping!” one of them exclaimed, pointing to the excited vines climbing over the fence.)

They don’t have enough sun where they live for a garden, so they jumped right on the opportunity to be a part of a community garden. Back in January of 2009, as the idea for the garden was developing, there was a meeting to invite community members to occupy sections of the garden. It was snowing, but they came anyways. The meeting was cancelled, but they were dedicated to getting a plot and soon became some of the first community members to get involved. It’s clear, too. Their plots are beautiful and flourishing.

Back at the picnic tables, we all relaxed in the perfect weather (I mean perfect, it doesn’t get better), finishing off the apple crisp and sipping lemonade. Most of the group took a stroll on the nature trail surrounding the pond. We stopped to admire the lilly pads and made plans to build a wooden canoe for the pond.

We finally had to head our separate ways, whether that meant a home nearby, a college dorm, or a community house down the road. Everyone seemed to have a great time (and I can say at least for myself that it beat spending the afternoon with freezing toes in an overly air conditioned library).

If that sounded like a way you want to spend your Sunday afternoon, then keep your eyes peeled for updates on the next monthly potluck! And if you can’t wait that long and want to get your hands a little dirty, you can join us for workdays (Saturdays from 10am to 12pm).


Happy gardening!

10 Reasons Why You Should Get Involved With Hope Gardens

1. You get to go outside

Let’s face it: You’ve been stuck in the library ever since the second week of classes. Your dorm room is starting to feel pretty cramped. After working so hard on that nice Summer tan, you’re now beginning to see the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. All you want is to feel the Sun on your face again, and Hope Gardens is the perfect opportunity for it. Stretch your legs and get a little exercise, because the library is for Winter!

2. You get to learn about gardening

And who doesn’t secretly want to be that peace-loving, romantic home-grown farmer type? Come on, it’s like free horticulture education anyway! Learn how to grow your own food, for your own nutritional and spiritual well-being. Not to mention becoming that good-looking, agro-chic gardener you always knew you were.

3. You want to help those in need

As much fun as working in Hope Gardens is on it’s own, you can feel good about helping others out too. Our urban farm efforts are focused on feeding the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. We aim to address barriers to food access. The sad reality is many folks don’t have an easy way to the grocery store, let alone reliable access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Let’s make a difference!

4. You’ll interact with nature

You’ve spent 18 of the last 24 hours looking at a monitor while sitting in a boxed room. But you try not to think about that. Come out to Hope Gardens and experience the purest form of reality, the natural world. Ghandi said, “to forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” Who are you to dispute Ghandi? Besides, interacting with nature is good for you. Getting your hands dirty promotes healthy bacteria–and when flu season comes around you’ll be grateful you got involved!

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5. You’ll make friends

And what better way to become close to someone? Take away all the distractions– cell phones, schoolwork, loud parties. When you’re out in the gardens, you’re kneeling in the grass next to your two new friends. You’re all weeding together and talking, and you realize how natural forming bonds comes while ripping roots out.

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6. You get to eat good food

Your dining plan is just NOT cutting it, and eating out on Franklin is draining your savings account. Luckily, Hope Gardens hosts monthly Potlucks with tons of free and yummy food. A lot of it will come straight from our plots, so you know it’s fresh, healthy and delicious.

7. You’ll promote sustainable and local agriculture

You were born in the 90s when fastfood and processed snacks reigned supreme. But you’re part of a new generation, and those days are over. Your birthright is real, clean food. You want to make a difference, even if it’s small. And supporting local, sustainable agriculture is a powerful and easy step towards food justice and green living.

8. You’ll relieve stress

Your troubles are back at school. Gardening demands your attention and requires mindfulness. It’s meditative in it’s own way. Try it and see.

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9. You want to leave your mark behind at Carolina

HOPE Gardens is a small operation, but every year we grow. Each generation of UNC students leaves something behind for the next. Over time, our roots have grown deep and strong. Become a part of an organization you can have longlasting pride and participation in.

10. You will cultivate community and humility

Hope Gardens is a community. We’re based around students, but we touch the lives of so many people in our area. When you work in the Gardens, you’ll meet all sorts of people from all walks of life. You’ll gain an appreciation for the necessity diversity–both in people and in plants. Cultivating crops is not unlike cultivating relationships; you’ll appreciate that there’s a certain equality in all things. You’re not the boss of the plants, nor are you the boss of other people. Rather, you’re a servant and participant. It takes a patience, and grounded humbleness to grow food. This translates to how you build friendships with others. It’s about cultivating humility and providing attention to those around you.

Enough said.


If you’re interested in getting involved with Hope Gardens this year, keep checking our website for information about how you can get more involved with garden workdays, cooking classes, food donations, and more.

We do carpool to the Gardens on Saturday mornings. The car meets in front of the Campus Y at 9:45am. Email us for more info!

 

Food Accessibility For All Beings

A quick glance at Google Maps north of Chapel Hill and you’ll notice an impressive amount of green space. For a modern city, we’ve got a whole lot of parks and undeveloped land. Both people and animals can agree this improves the overall quality of life. In 2009, Hope Gardens partnered with the Chapel Hill department of Parks and Recreation to create the community garden on a 14-acre green space off of Homestead Road. Looking more closely at the map, it becomes evident that the Gardens’ location is actually nestled in a green corridor between a few sizeable forest tracts. South of our location are great swaths of the Carolina North Forest. Northeast of us lies Homestead Park. Northwest looms an enormous section of the Duke Forest. Altogether this accounts for hundreds of acres of linked, undeveloped Piedmont forest. Hope Gardens has the great fortune of being right along this green corridor, an essential connection for traveling wildlife.

o our gardeners and plants, this is a blessing. It means greater ecological stability–birds to eat bugs, snakes to eat mice, hawks to eat snakes–and therefore improved sustainability and greater returns on our harvests. But our location is also a responsibility. Operating along a wildlife corridor demands environmental stewardship. It would be wrong to use insecticides and artificial fertilizers. How would those agricultural practices hurt our pond and its residents? What about our friendly pollinators and their sensitivity to chemicals? It would be wrong to cut all the trees and expand our plots (which take up less than an acre of the property). How badly would deforestation impact the birds, the mammals, the insects that live here? How much topsoil would erode without vegetation to secure and nourish the sediment? It would be wrong to let the bamboo and other invasive species run amok. How would that diminish the normal food supply of native wildlife?

Sustainable agriculture isn’t just about ensuring future harvests–it’s about doing what’s right for every living thing.

In this sense, Hope Gardens works toward food accessibility for all beings.

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On July 30th, I drive over to the Gardens with my fishing pole and machete. As I approach the pond (perhaps unnecessarily hacking at the grass) a Great Blue Heron flies off. I set my stuff down, grab a stick, and dig for worms. It takes all of 60 seconds to find one under some leaves. I cast out into the pond. Because of all the rains, the water is experiencing something of an algae bloom right now. But, I can see fish jumping periodically around the water’s corners. Luckily, there don’t seem to be too many mosquitoes around. I see a pair of dragonflies dancing around and silently thank them–dragonflies eat mosquitoes.

There are minnows everywhere–but even more numerous are the deer tracks along the shoreline. They’re very overpopulated–and I’ve seen several does here on workdays. I asked the Garden managers to list the wildlife they’d seen this summer: song birds, birds of prey, frogs, toads, butterflies, bees, other insects, rabbits, voles, groundhogs and deer. I’ve even seen foxes nearby.

 

For Hope Gardens, our community isn’t limited by town borders, race, class, or faith. But we like to take that even further, remembering that in life, community isn’t even limited by species. We take pride in our neighbors, human and nonhuman alike. The reality is, we’re all ecologically codependent. Humans, animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, everything. This truth compels us to respect wildlife. Furthermore, this truth teaches us that when the situation is appropriate, we have a responsibility to protect wildlife.

In keeping with this commitment, Hope Gardens is currently in the process of seeking certification by the National Wildlife Federation. The NWF is a voice for wildlife, dedicated to protecting wildlife and habitat and inspiring the future generation of conservationists.

 

We’re currently asking for donations to raise the money for the NWF certification. It only amounts to a small sum, but it has enormous meaning for us. It is symbolic of our appreciation of the natural world. It is a reminder to respect and appreciate all life forms. Furthermore, it promotes conservation ethics to all of those who work, visit, and eat at the Gardens. If you’d like to donate towards our certification, please contact us at nchopegardens@gmail.com. On behalf of HOPE Gardens and all the critters, thank you!