By Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, NOFA/Mass Food Access Coordinator

During the earliest days of the outbreak of COVID-19, many families, particularly families of color, started incorporating gardening into their quarantine routine.  Many families desired to have fresher food more available to their households.  Over the past few months, even more backyard gardens have been started and interest in healthy cooking continues to increase.

In this first part of a two-part article, I would like to introduce to you to some neighborhood growers. They share their reasons for gardening, what they have gained from it, and their inspiration to continue.

Ms. Audrey and Mr. Walter:

Both transplants from the south, Mr. Walter is from Georgia and Ms. Audrey is from North Carolina.  When asked how and when they were first introduced to gardening, Mr. Walter stated: “That is what we did in the south, grew our own food.  Many of us had parents or grandparents that had small garden plots.  Everyone would harvest and share what they grew.  Other families would preserve either by canning, drying, or freezing.  It was just what we did.”  Ms. Audrey remembered how she would help harvest string beans and prepare them for eating.

Ms. Audrey and Mr. Walter live in the Old Hill Neighborhood of Mason Square in Springfield, MA.  Both have resided in the area for over 20 years.  In the next article, we will go a little deeper into what inspired them to garden and what it means to talk to new, younger gardeners.

Youth leaders weed and water at the Tapley Garden in Springfield, MA on July 16, 2020, under the direction of Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Equity Director and Food Access Program Coordinator for NOFA Mass. (photo by Betty Jenewin)

Mr. Phillips:

Mr. Phillips, an accomplished gardener from Trinidad, has a large garden in a very inconspicuous space.  When you look at his home and garden from the street level, you cannot imagine that he is growing over an acre of food behind the house, on the fence, in pots, on the sidewalk and in other small spaces.

Mr. Phillips brings ancient farming knowledge from Trinidad, while his wife is from another Caribbean Country.  He is willing to share whatever he knows.

When visitors come to his house to look at how he uses the space at his home for growing, Mr. Phillips smiles and talks excitedly about his life in Trinidad and how much farming is a part of his family.  He is always ready to lend a hand to new gardeners.  In fact, he assisted with our project irrigation and raised bed issues and he enjoys watching new gardeners learn the craft.

In the next article, we will interview both of our gardeners and find out what motivates them to continue to grow and what advice they could offer to new gardeners.

If you want to know more about the Food Access Program or the Equity and Inclusion work that is going on at NOFA/Mass, please contact Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Equity Director and Food Access Coordinator for NOFA/Mass at