"A food desert is any area in the industrialized world where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain" (Wikipedia). I checked the U.S. government's Food Desert Locator, and to my surprise there are food deserts located not far from where Don and I live in Chesapeake, Virginia.
I am a local-foods enthusiast, so I have been wanting to play a role in helping other people grow fresh, local, sustainable food for themselves. If the people I help are in need, so much the better. I very much admire the work that Will Allen and his Growing Power has been doing in major cities, and I wanted to do something similar in some small way here. I also remember when I first moved into my previous house in North Carolina, a divorcee
with lots of needs and barely two dollars to
rub together in my pocket. I wanted a vegetable garden because gas was $4.00 a gallon and I wanted to avoid driving to Walmart for veggies I could grow at home. At that time members of the Freecycle community there took
me under their wing and shared cuttings, seeds, and advice with
But how to start here? I am new to Chesapeake, and I know almost nobody in town.
My answer came in the form of a plea on the local Freecycle list. This particular request was for vegetable seeds, flower seeds, cuttings, and anything that could help someone who knew very little about gardening to get started. The request came from South Norfolk, an area of Chesapeake that is needier than other parts of the city.
I exchanged a few emails with the sender of the message. I learned that "Grace," as I'll call her, is disabled and hasn't been able to work in a few years. She wants to garden but has very little money to spend. She has a few pots but nothing over 8".
Today I got to "pay it forward" when I arrived with potting soil, seeds, cuttings of mint and oregano, some tools, a helping hand, pots of various sizes and shapes, gardening magazines, and advice. Grace and her housemate are lovely people, and it felt good to help them in some small way. I finally got the chance to play a role, however tiny, in spreading the local foods movement and to do it in in honor of all the gardeners and Freecylers who have helped me over the years. I also had a chance to clear some unused flower pots and containers out of my yard.
I will be on alert for other opportunities to grow gardening and local foods in my area. The world will be a better place if others will do the same. I'd love to see more towns with the giving, grow-your-own, self-sufficient spirit of the quaint little Todmorden in England.