• Ben Shenk

Generations United by Gardening

Updated: Aug 27

As she dug her hands into the dark, warm soil she couldn’t help but feel like she was being watched. Like there were hundreds of eyes examining her every move…

No, this isn’t a scene from a mystery novel...just another morning in Thrive 9th Ward’s garden, where local gardener and green infrastructure specialist Reedy Brooks has been tending to the garden beds, and where 20+ summer camp kids gather almost daily to help out.

Yet how this scene came to be is a bit of a mystery in and of itself - Thrive 9th ward really didn’t have any plans for gardening. But it just so happened that the community did.

Growing New Opportunities

“There’ve been garden beds growing for the past few years, but we hadn’t really been doing much with them.” Said Oscar Brown, Executive Director at Thrive 9th Ward. “I had just been letting my mom and some ladies from the neighborhood come by and pick the greens.”

And so, for a few months, this group of neighborhood elders would make their way over every once in a while to pick fresh greens to cook and to keep up with the garden here and there.

“They were enjoying the greens so much, we got to thinking: ‘I bet someone in our community could do something real cool with this’.”

When the Eat Local Challenge was announced for June, it seemed like the perfect way to kickoff something tied to the garden, as the opportunity married helping to create access and awareness of healthy food and lifestyle within the community.

“We really didn’t know all that much about gardening ourselves, but we were sure that there was probably someone in the community who would be the perfect expert on this.” Said Brown.

Gardening That Goes Beyond The Greens

After contacting a few Launch NOLA Green Graduates, they found just the person in Reedy Brooks. Reedy grew up in New Orleans, and has deep experience in gardening and using native plants. She approaches gardening holistically - seeing it as a way to engage and understand culture and history, as well as ourselves.

Reedy leads a discussion at the "Black and Green" community workshop

“When people are gardening, their minds and bodies are more connected. For a lot of people, it allows them to process thoughts and feelings in ways that they don’t have space to otherwise.” Reedy explained. “When I get to garden with people, both kids, and adults, they often open up and leave feeling really grounded and peaceful.”

After they had talked about the idea Reedy stoped by Thrive 9th Ward to look after the garden beds. On the first visit, she already had a crowd.

“Soon as Reedy was out there, the kids were out there trying to see everything she was doing,” Oscar said, chuckling at the memory. “It’s almost impossible to keep 40 kids attention, but when she started to explain what she was doing, and how they could help, they were 100% in it.”

Now, Reedy tends the garden regularly and has taught the summer camp kids to take care of it while she’s gone, and has hosted her first community garden workshop exploring the gardening and foraging traditions of Black New Orleanians. Community members in attendance shared food, thoughts, and ideas centered around the garden as a site of liberation, therapy, and resistance in Black African history and culture.

All eyes are on the greens as Reedy shares about caring for plants with summer camp kids

The Future is Looking Green

The small garden, which was right under Thrive 9th Ward’s nose for so long, has now managed to bring together three generations, youth, parents, and elders, all while reinforcing tenants of rest, health, and connection with the earth and others.

Thrive 9th Ward is eager to see what new ways community members take ownership of the gardens, and are excited to continue using these simple assets to help the community to Thrive.



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