Jardín de Armonía En Acción
In response to a lack of culturally relevant gardening information, Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES) and local Latino community members came together to create a garden guide in the Spanish language. CLUES is Minnesota’s largest Latino-led nonprofit organization, founded in 1981 by and for Latinos. Located in East Saint Paul, CLUES works to advance the well-being of Latinos in Minnesota, strengthen community connections, and provide resources to Latinos in need.
In 2020, with support from The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CLUES created a multigenerational community garden known as the Jardín de Armonía En Acción – Harmony Garden in Action. Over the past two years, the garden has flourished and brought community members together to preserve cultural traditions and knowledge on growing food. Over 53 Latino families have regularly participated in growing and harvesting food in the garden, and this summer the garden doubled in size to accommodate the growing demand for more participants.
Sowing Hope, Growing Power
One of the biggest barriers in expanding the garden was the lack of gardening materials in Spanish and finding resources that included culturally relevant plants and foods. “Community members shared that although they know how to grow food back home, growing food here is very different due to our vastly different climate, and that the majority of the resources that exist regarding how to grow food in this climate are in English,” said Chris Waters, Community Based Gardening Specialist at CLUES. “We realized our community could benefit from a simple Spanish language gardening guide to share the basics of when to start seeds, when to transplant outside, how to harden plants for transfer from indoors to outdoors, and more.”
This summer, CLUES created a Spanish-language garden guide, written and developed by Latino community members. The guide features hand drawn artwork from two Latina artists, Lynda Acosta and Jennifer Pena, who are also community garden participants. The main sections of the guide are taken directly from questions that community gardeners wanted to know or would find useful. Designed to strengthen community members’ skills and confidence, CLUES hopes that the guide will also inspire others to build their own gardens at home.
“This project isn’t about us informing people, it’s about community coming together to share the things they are feeling challenged by and validating those experiences by empowering each other with knowledge, skills, and wisdom. This garden guide shows our garden community members that the challenges they are facing are not faced by them alone, and that when one person stands up to ask for some help, we can all benefit,” said Chris Waters.
Strengthening Community Through Food Justice
Jardín de Armonía En Acción helps to increase food security for local community members who participate. Food insecurity is a serious issue that disproportionately impacts Latino families. According to Feeding America, one in six Latino households struggles with hunger and Latinos are 2.5 times more likely to experience food insecurity than white individuals. Latinos are less likely to receive help from federal programs like SNAP, compounding the threat of hunger. The COVID-19 pandemic, along with changes to immigration policy and heighted fears of deportation has dramatically increased hunger and food insecurity for Latino communities in the United States.
Access to land for growing food is another significant barrier that Latinos face when it comes to food security and community health. “Not only do we tend to inhabit food deserts, where systemic injustices have resulted in neighborhoods with much higher sources of environmental contamination and far fewer sources of healthy, fresh, and affordable foods, but we also have much less access to green spaces that could be used for food production. While some spaces for growing food do exist, these spaces tend to be stewarded by non-Latinos, and here, the legacy of overt racism continues to affect the way we feel about our own capacity to engage with our neighbors,” said Chris Waters.
Jardín de Armonía En Acción is unique in that it is a space owned by and for Latino community members. In addition to producing fresh, healthy, and culturally relevant foods, the garden has helped to build community and connect families to the land. Garden participants have found that reconnecting with plants, pollinators, and the earth has been beneficial for their overall health and wellbeing. “We hope to be able to continue feeding the many dimensions of health and wellness through nurturing lasting relationships with our human and more than human community,” said Chris Waters.
To learn more about Jardín de Armonía En Acción and the Sembrando Esperanza Cultivando Poder Garden Guide, visit https://clues.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/CLUES-Gui%CC%81a-de-Jardineri%CC%81a_compressed.pdf