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Black History Month Highlights: Jaz

Welcome back to the third year of this humble project to highlight Black growers in San Antonio, TX to celebrate Black History Month and Black history in the making. Today we meet Jaz, who started growing in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic while having extra time on his hands. Gardening came from a desire to have fresh produce on hand so they could cook from scratch. Through trial and error and learning online from tutorials and YouTube videos, Jaz quickly learned his way around the dirt and seeds. Initially Jaz started off growing mostly salad type vegetables but was able to progress to growing enough various crops that they could feed his family for multiple meals. He goes on to say, “cooking got me into gardening but then the gardening got me even more into cooking.” Jaz further explained that they learned more about plants so he could eat more parts of the plants-including leaves, stems, etc. I asked what was his favorite thing to grow and they quickly responded “tomatoes!” because he has always had great yields from tomato plants and that “harvesting is [their] favorite part.”

We kept talking and I asked if anyone else in his family tree was a gardener or farmer. Jaz said he had no known family history of growing, saying “my parents thought i was the weirdest person” because he started gardening. Jaz talked about the disconnection most people have from eating fruits and vegetables but not knowing where our foods actually come from. He used his dad as an example and how their dad felt hesitant to eat produce from the garden because it “came from dirt.” Jaz talked about how that disconnect made them want to garden more and said gardening and being in the dirt felt like, “a connection back to [his] ancestors.” 

Jaz also has chickens in their backyard and told me about getting a little bit of inspiration to raise livestock from his great gran who grew up on a farm and helped to raise animals. They also talked about creating an ecosystem in their home where chickens and fish tanks help fertilize the garden crops that his family goes on to eat. Jaz then spoke about how being a Black male has affected their acceptance in gardening space and how sometimes there is apprehension or hesitancy for people to accept him in those spaces. They also spoke about how being a Black urban farmer is really important, especially in this day and age, and how these skills are vital skills to know and learn. Jaz credits a YouTube channel called Epic Gardening for helping him learn basics and Black gardeners on Tik Tok for learning beyond that. Thank you, Jaz for sharing your garden and knowledge with us! You can follow Jaz on instagram @SentientThesis


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