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  • Writer's pictureHeber Brown, III

The Garden Is My Happy Place

One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic for me was that it reconnected me with my passion and love for gardening. From 2015 when I started The Black Church Food Security Network through 2019, my profile had grown so that I was spending a lot time and energy crisscrossing the country talking about the organization, food justice and the need for systemic solutions to the systemic problem of food apartheid.

I felt (and many times still feel) like a missionary for the gospel of food sovereignty. Traveling and spreading the word about gardening and importance of the African American community getting in the driver's seat of our own food environments helped our organization grow rapidly. The pandemic only intensified the focus on the necessity of us knowing how to grow our own food. However, the pandemic completely interrupted my travel pulled me from the frantic pace of spreading the message and thereby gifted me with the room I needed to get back to actual gardening...and not just talking about gardening on stages.

I try to remember this now as the world has opened up again and my pace has increased once more. I try to remember how important it is to guard the time that I need to garden. I do believe it's a need. I speak about my organization and work not from some theoretical position, but from a practical and personal vantage point. When I'm actually engaged in gardening and growing food, it helps me to be more balanced, grounded, and at peace with my own life and journey. Like everyone, I have my own challenges, periods of great stress and sadness. I battle with feeling alone, inadequate and even sometimes not worthy of the best of what life can offer.

Gardening helps to calibrate my internal system and brings spiritual, emotional and physical benefits to my life. I don't grow food and spend time gardening because I lead a national organization committed to food sovereignty. It's actually the other way around. I lead a national organization because I had a deeply personal, transformative experience on land, growing food and slowing to the rhythm of nature. This is what I must remember...especially as the lights get brighter, the stages gets bigger and the crowds grow.

The garden is my happy place and no matter how busy I get, how big the work becomes or how urgent the deadlines, I must stay in rhythm with land, seed and soil so that my personal garden - the garden of my soul - remains so well watered and flourishing that even when the public work disappears, I'll still be feasting from the nourishment of the gardens and farms that I live in partnership with when no one is watching.

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