Growing with the Communities

Hi all, Jake and Amelia here!

We’ve been working hard planning out our planting schedules, and finding plants that work the best together to ensure the Mobile Oasis is sustainable as well as delicious. We’ve also been in communication with communities to find out what specifically we can grow for them in our space and what they can teach us about farming. Alongside with planting and harvesting we’ve also been doing a lot of training and site visits. Visiting sites has been a big part of this training week and we’ve spent a lot of time visiting each market, drop off, and farm site in order to make sure we’re working with these communities, not just for them.

The site visits have been incredibly moving and important, in each of them we got a chance to talk to community members about their relationship to the Mobile Oasis and learn about how food insecurity is impacting them. Just from these initial visits, we learned a lot about what food insecurity in Greensboro looks like, as well as a lot of the history of how Greensboro came to be this way. Market times have been informative about this as well, and the more chances we get to learn from the members of each community we learn more about what our role in all of this is.

As we learned about the history of these Greensboro communities we also looked at ways issues of class and race play into the levels of food insecurity among them. As well as holding a session on racism in the food system we heard many first-hand accounts as well as historical evidence from community members themselves about the racist laws and systems that contributed to the levels of food insecurity in Greensboro. Our visits to Warnersville and the Cottage Grove community highlighted this especially, as both communities access to food is greatly impacted by decisions directly made by the City Of Greensboro.

As we visited Warnersville we learned about how they are one of the oldest communities in Greensboro dating back almost 150 years. We heard there about how the community had flourished, with its own main street featuring shops, grocery stores, and independently owned businesses. The community was disrupted by the placement of a highway in the mid 60’s that disrupted the main street and flow of movement through the Warnersville community. Further zoning and construction laws cut the community off and contributed greatly both to a loss of income and a loss of access to food in the area.

Similar issues are affecting the Cottage Grove community, whose immigrant populations can’t grow their own crops because of contaminated water. The city, upon facing pressure to remove a landfill in the area incorrectly filled it, resulting in uneven land and the leaching of toxins into the water supply. Despite numerous site visits and investigations from the EPA and the housing department, the water is still being polluted, and a community that’s already cut off from easily accessible food has their own ability to grow it taken away.

These two sites are not exceptions, these communities access to food have all been limited in one way or another, and unpacking that history is crucial to working alongside these communities. As we prepare more for market and begin working on how we’ll be setting up in each of these communities we must be conscious both of the intentions we bring into the space and those of the people before us. These first weeks of working with the Mobile Oasis project have been a really informative and inspiring start to what is looking to be a really amazing summer. We’ll be continuing to update our blog each week to keep everyone updated on the Mobile Oasis project as well as reflecting on the work we do throughout Greensboro!