Growing Justice (GJ) focuses on urban gardens, food justice, and community well-being in Watsonville and Pajaro, California. Despite their location in the agriculturally-rich Pajaro Valley, food insecurity is prevelant. Food security refers to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that fulfills household dietary needs and preferences. Often, the very people who labor in the food system are unable to put enough healthy food on the table for their own families.
Initiated by Mesa Verde Gardens (MVG), urban community gardens involving low-income, primarily farm working families have emerged to address food insecurity & diet-related health issues while building community. However, data to evaluate the impacts of community gardening in promoting overall community well-being is lacking. CAN’s Growing Justice project, works with youth & MVG gardeners to co-create an understanding of the interrelated challenges of food insecurity, violence & poor environmental quality; assess the significance of community gardens; and gain practical skills that empower advocacy for & spearhead changes in our local community.
After two years of data collection, Growing Justice has transcribed multiple community narratives ‘testimonios’ from farmworkers, community gardeners, youth, mothers, and family members. Now, they are creatively sharing back the knowledge and experiences these stories hold through a mobile art exhibit called “Wisdoms of the Ancestral Kitchen”. These share backs are key to community building and community accompaniment by GJ youth with MVG gardeners and the Pajaro Valley Community at large, as they seek to animate dialogue to propose alternative solutions to the challenges their community faces.
River Park Community Garden documentary film
CAN’s Growing Justice project was joined by UC Santa Cruz Professor Emily C. Cohen Ibanez‘ Visual Sociology Video Production Lab. Through this unique collaboration, UC Santa Cruz students, CAN staff and youth community researchers, Mesa Verde Gardens, and the urban gardeners of River Park Garden in Watsonville, California, produced a 20-minute collaboratively authored documentary project. The aim was to listen and to help the gardeners tell their stories of migration, food justice, urban belonging, and gardening.
• Measure the capacity of community gardens to provide a safe haven for community-building and family recreation
• Engage community members in making changes to their food access and food choices through a participatory action research approach
• Empower local youth (ages 14-24) to be leaders in building a more just and sustainable future for Watsonville and Pajaro families
Dissemination of research findings is an integral part of the PAR process throughout the three years of the study.Year 1 will focus on the development of gardener profiles, Year 2 will focus on the development of a community forum to present these profiles to the public, and Year 3 will focus on the development of a final report and a multi-media tool that will share the impact of community gardens on the lives and neighborhoods of communities facing food insecurity and how individuals and families can be empowered to improve their community’s well-being.
Dissemination will take place with two goals in mind:
- Collaborating with youth-researchers and MVG gardeners to develop resources—maps, booklets, etc. that are accessible and will further their own community-based initiatives; and
- Amplifying the voices of those not traditionally heard among policy makers, researchers and local institutions.
Smiles from Mi Jardin Verde (Mesa Verde Gardens) after a hot day of searching and identifying garden insects in July.
Community Agroecology Network staff, Friends of CAN, and Growing Justice youth had a great night sharing stories and pictures with the Santa Cruz community. A special thank you to Judy Ziegler from Cornucopia Real Estate for hosting CAN! (left) Mario (seated) from the Growing Justice team and Izamar from FoCAN (Friends of CAN) enjoyed