WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – More than 100 children, their parents and community residents assembled at newly dedicated Marvin Gaye Park June 30 for a Ministry of Agriculture Committee, hands-on urban gardening workshop and farmer’s market, featuring Dr. Ridgely Muhammad and fresh produce from the 1,600-acre Nation of Islam farm in Southwest Georgia.
“Growing Food and Building Confidence” was the theme of the day, which featured children planting three different types of vegetables, making seed charts, and transplanting plants in one of several community garden plots throughout the city that are maintained by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. The event was co-hosted by the Riverside Center, adjacent to the Park, where a local farmer’s market is held each Saturday morning during growing season.
Children also created art projects such as mirrors, notebooks, and picture frames decorated with brightly colored seeds, and they each took a plant home to start their own gardens, according to Sister Yvette Muhammad, chair of the Agriculture Committee at Muhammad’s Mosque No. 4.
“A lot of people don’t grow their own food because they don’t think they can,” Sister Yvette told The Final Call. “Some people think, ‘I don’t have a green thumb; I can’t grow plants.’ We want to show people that it’s very doable, and it’s very necessary in this day and time. We want to connect people to the land.
“Food grows. Some people just think you go to the grocery store, and that’s where food is. No. You can grow food yourself, and that’s how you acquire wealth–it’s from the ground. A lot of young people don’t know that, and especially adults; they’ve lost that connection,” said Sister Yvette, who has maintained a small garden in her front yard for several years.
“Do for self or die a slave,” Dr. Ridgely said in his remarks, pointing out that Blacks in this country, particularly, must work on self-help projects because they must realize that after slaving for 300-plus years for White America, making America rich, there is “no one to slave for us, unless we now slave for ourselves.”
Dr. Muhammad, an agricultural economist and Vice President of the National Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association, earned degrees from North Carolina A&T University, and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Michigan State University.
Dr. Muhammad brought fresh corn, yellow squash, green squash, and hundreds of huge watermelons for the anxious customers, some of whom are members of the Committee’s “Food 4 Life Buying Club,” which provides nearly 100 families with fresh, locally-grown produce every two weeks, along with a newsletter with helpful tips on a variety of benefits which some families realize when they eat two or three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day.
Nearly all fruits and vegetables are low-fat, contain fiber and natural chemicals known as phytonutrients which help protect against heart diseases, cancer, cataracts and muscular degeneration. Common summer fruits and vegetables also add colors to the dining room table, including: purple eggplant; many green vegetables, white garlic, onion, celery, pears, leeks, and chives; yellow and orange squash, corn, carrots, mangoes, peaches, red cabbage, beets, tomatoes, and strawberries.
The newsletter also contains cleaning and cooking instructions and recipes for featured vegetables prepared by Sister Esther Muhammad, a chef and caterer.