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Black History Month Highlights: Ashley

Black growers and land stewards have always had an influential role in tending to the land. It has been their labor, love, and ancestral knowledge that has kept a lot of the world fed and clothed. Recently there has been a renaissance of black folks becoming gardeners and farmers. ROC wanted to take the month of February to give these amazing local and interstate black gardeners their flowers!

This week's BHM Highlight is Ashley

Initially from Alabama, this local grower has had her roots planted & growing in Texas (zone 9a) for a decade. During our talk, Ashley describes how she went from simplistic container gardening and landscaping to a proudly proclaimed oasis. “You gotta start somewhere. I started with tomatoes in a container during a Texas July. I also used to do little circles of rocks as a garden bed. During that time I had a lot of stuff die on me.”, she said through a stifled laugh.

In addition to keeping an illustrious garden ,Ashley has also been homeschooling her kids. It was really heartwarming to listen to her explain how beneficial it was to incorporate growing into their curriculum. She lovingly describes fond memories of harvesting and planting with her young daughters. “My kids' love for fresh veggies has really grown from them being available. I want my kids to be able to go right outside and grab fresh food. I want them to not be afraid to try new things and to be in love with eating food that nourishes them.”

Talking about how she is passing this knowledge on also reminds her of similar moments she shared with her grandmother. “My grandmother used to take me out when I was about 7 years old to put the seeds in the ground and fertilize. Which is really the foundation of why I wanted to do this. On my paternal & maternal sides it [growing food] skipped a generation and I picked it back up . Both of them knew how to make something out of nothing. They lived through the great depression and faced great hardship that taught them how to make something out of nothing.

As our conversation concludes, it's evident that a foundational piece of her gardening journey is intimately tied to her existence as a Black woman & mother. All the decisions she's making is with her family and loved ones' betterment in mind. She explains to us how working with the land has changed her perspective on preparedness, her buying power, and the importance of centering local businesses. “I felt led to start growing food after looking at the state of the world and the direction we were headed. I don't wanna see anyone go hungry but, the systems that are in place are leaving us to fend for ourselves.” Ashley further explains how growing food isn't something that you can put on a definite timeline because the majority of the variables are not up to us. It is a laborious trade that we don't really get to witness due to the immediate access to veggies from the grocery store. “After seeing all the labor I had to put into getting enough healthy tomatoes to eat and share with my family, it made me appreciate the farmers and laborers that make sure we have food to eat. It made me want to know more about the people who study the soil… it really is a whole science.”

You can follow Ashley on Instagram @2asplus4js!

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