Looking back over this year and all the work that we’ve done really is something to honor. Even through the heat of the summer and the coldness of the winter the garden pushed forward. There is no easy way to wrap our head around the kind of work and impact that is done here but we can step back and look at the physical progress of the space and admire the time and energy that everyone has put forth this year.
One of the major accomplishments for 2018 has been re-igniting the Roots of Change Garden Co-Op Workgroup. This Co-Op group is comprised dedicated individuals that are interested in not only getting their hands dirty in the everyday upkeep of the garden but they also are able to participate directly in planning and deeper leadership roles. That’s not to say that everyone came into this group as a expert, or skilled gardener. This group is used to build trust, and confidence for those looking to understand the whole Roots of Change Garden system even including the background city-wide work we do. Basic gardening skills are shared as well as looking at the whole San Antonio food system and understanding what role we play in it, and how it plays a large role in the decisions we make about our own diet, and health.
We plant the seed of questioning our surroundings and who they are there for. When we look at the larger picture we can really start to see the racism, mobility, inequity, lack of resources, and overall disenfranchisement of our communities of color and working class folks. We started off with a large group of interested folks and by the end of the year we started to see dedicated leaders emerging. Not only were Co-Op members helping alongside the lead organizer, they were able to lead special workgroups during large workdays and get to have hands on experience with managing people, tasks and workloads. The Co-Op played a role in setting up the garden for more shared responsibility and access including a check in shed and task whiteboard to communicate to each other. The experience has been positive as we hope to continue forward with this program into the new year.
The Co-Op group continued the regular garden workdays with community members, schools, nurses, youth, other organizations, and many more. We worked with over 13 other groups in the garden during workdays including UTSA honors students, St. Mary University’s Continuing the heritage, Palo Alto students, Dr. Cantu’s Healthy Neighborhoods Nurses program, Metro-Health, Gervin Center, Carver Center, and our own Youth Leadership Organization. Through over 40 large community and weekly work days, we were able to build and strengthen our garden systems for easier flow in the garden.
Our food goes directly to those who spend time working in our garden and put energy into the space. We installed a outdoor storage unit for spare scrap materials, as well as a fully automated irrigated seed starting station that not only helps keep up with watering schedules but also provides shade during our hottest time periods. We continued part of the overall garden plan from last years work with the SATX Permaculture group, by installing nine new annual beds in the back property complete with inground automated irrigation. We sheet-mulched over 100 yards of mulch this year in preparation of our back food forest area that’s set to be installed in early 2019.
Not only did we build, but we also spent time in the fall on our educational programming. We established new partnerships with over 13 different organizations and groups throughout the year to bring in a lush garden education program including the National Center for Appropriate Technology, San Antonio Food Bank, Ecocentro, Neighboring gardens, Food Policy Council of San Antonio, Yanawana Herbolarios and Compost Queens just to name a few. Some of the workshops included, citrus grafting and tree care, herbal remedies and healing, cooking, food justice and a review of our pond anniversary project. Together, we hosted about 10 workshops and over 15 garden tours and interacted with over 400 people this year alone.
We were also able to start a relationship with Compost Queens that connects food waste from some of our favorite organizations to our garden. We have been experimenting with ways to include their Bokashi composting method into our garden expansion in a way that is yielding better results than we were even expecting. With help from them, Roots of Change Garden has helped divert over 2,270 lbs of wood waste in just the last three months of the year. We hope to expand deeper on this relationship and figure out meaningful and productive ways to process their compost in the future. We connected directly with community members during the 2018 People’s Movement Assembly in which we hosted a roundtable discussion with invited garden members about unpacking Food Justice in San Antonio. The conversation were well needed and we hope to continue the dialogue with more sessions in the new year. The goal is to start thinking beyond our own spaces, selves, and our garden and into our communities, neighborhoods and cities around us.
We also were able to continue our fundamental Free Seed program, which distributes free seeds to all those who come stopped by in our community outreach opportunities and workshops. We were donated a pallet of free non-gmo seeds that weighed an estimated 500-700 lbs of seeds. That’s a lot! We were able to help over 100 families get seeds this fall season so that they can start gardens in their own spaces in available yards, patios, and window sills with skills they learn at the Roots of Change Garden workdays. The seeds included many different and unique varieties of annual seasonal crops, as well as herbs, flowers, perennials, and medicinals, which have been requested by our community members in the past.
So, what's next for 2019? We plan to continue some of our usual programs like, workshops, workdays, tours, seed giveaways, composting and youth program. However, we plan to expand our workshops into spring and fall seasons, and deepen our summer youth program with meaningful projects. We plan on growing more food than we ever have been before with the new garden beds and fruit trees planned in the next year. We want to push further into the complexities of our food system and analyze what steps we can take to gain liberation and true justice and sovereignty. We hope to connect with our earth and ancestors and listen to the wisdoms of those before us. We will strive to create spaces for healing and rest in these times of attacks and turmoil of our communities. Most importantly, we will continue to grow within our own spaces, skills, knowledge, and within ourselves and our communities to make impactful changes that have long lasting effects on our environments and personal well-being and ways of life.