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Empowering Diverse Communities With Home Gardens

home gardens in our own words

Home Gardens partners with diverse, multi-generational families and communities to build and sustain food-producing home and community gardens through multilingual and culturally-relevant programming.

“People come with all different kinds of experience,” Antonio Rodriguez, Home Gardens Community Manager and past program participant, said. “We want to show everyone how important it is to grow your own vegetables.”

Home Gardens is guided by the belief that growing one’s own food can strengthen the health and resilience of individuals, communities, and the earth. Nutritious, culturally relevant food should be a universal right, but a food system built on systemic injustice and intentionally racist principles prevents many people from accessing these things. Gardening allows people to control their own food, increasing access to foods that benefit them. It also creates opportunities for people to come together, and when communities are stronger and people have the chance to learn from one another, everyone is healthier and happier.

“Gardening gets at the social determinants of health( SDOH), thinking upstream,” Rashae Burns, Home Gardens Director and also a former program participant, said. “It’s not just addressing food insecurity, there’s a lot of intersectionality with other social determinants of health .”

Controlling what goes into one’s food, harvesting an abundance of produce from a few plants, and getting daily exercise and time outside offers numerous physical benefits, while caring for plants and watching them grow is emotionally and spiritually fulfilling. Through Home Gardens, Partner Gardens, and Rx Gardens, Growing Gardens hopes to collaborate with people of all different backgrounds and contexts to practice these things. Home Gardens engages with families’ young children all the way up to elderly communities and offers programming in both Spanish and English. 

“People can feel like members of a community, it’s not just about getting resources,” Gabi Villaseñor, the Community Coordinator for the North Clackamas County area, said. 

The majority of the Home Gardens team are past program participants themselves, speaking to this circular process. “We are always thinking about how we can nourish and take care of ourselves,” Rashae said of the team. “That way, we can share with communities what we have learned.”

Over the past couple of years, the Home Gardens team has undergone a 90-hour community healthcare workers training, offered in both English and Spanish, to gain skills and resources in order to become healthcare liaisons, helping members of their communities navigate the healthcare system. Team members have also done a training through Mariquita Medicinals to learn how to cultivate and use plant medicines, which they have then gone on to share with Home Gardens participants and partner gardens.

Gardening is hard work, and through resource sharing and a decentralized model, where each neighborhood has a designated Community Organizer, Home Gardens hopes to build relationships so people know they don’t have to go about it alone. With this community base, gardening emerges as a practice to cultivate resilience, connection, and health. 

“From surveys at the end of the season, people say that their garden is a place of respite, that it’s their special place, their kids are eating more vegetables, they’re sharing their surplus,” Rashae said. “All of these things flourish.”

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