Growing a Legacy
It Takes a Community to Raise a Child
Every Summer of my childhood life, there was one thing for certain. Yes I was on vacation from school and was supposed to enjoy my time off, however it was also a time to work the gardens. My mom had a small one we did in the backyard, we were city folks so you couldn’t do too much. My grandparents though, it seemed like they had a whole farm. A whole lot of land out in Kingstown, that had to be tilled, weeded, fertilized, weeded, cultivated, weeded, etc. I never truly understood why it was so important to “grow” food when you could so easily go to the grocery store and get stuff right off the shelf. This was too hard to do and took up too much of my time during the summer I thought. It’s now that I’m older that I finally see that, we all have to eat. We all don’t have bank accounts that can easily pay for the convenience of shopping. I also learned that, naturally vegetables and produce doesn’t last as long as they do in cans and so forth. You have to add things which as we are seeing now, could cause health issues.
Young people of the Apple Ridge Farm family under the direction of their leader, CEO John Lewis, partnered with other community leaders to not only grow fresh local organic vegetables and produce, they marketed, monitored the inventory, and ultimately sold to the community a much needed “WELL.” Working, Eating, Learning, Living is an initiative to teach youth in the community the value of “growing.” Whether it is the Apple Ridge Farm Summer Camp or coming out on Saturday’s to sell vegetables to the community shoppers, a group of teenagers were engaged this summer.
Missing in the Northwest section of Roanoke is a viable fresh food option. The area has even been labeled a “Food Desert” because of it. Lewis, who has experience building the community through providing fresh food options in projects he worked on in Richmond, VA, set a plan in action. He taught the value of growing your own food to young people by gathering elders of the community to plant seeds and work the community gardens of Northwest. The lesson was not to go backwards in history, but rather to move forward on the wealth of opportunities that are available in agriculture. One of the programs I know Mr. Lewis was working on became a partnership at Virginia State University. Now a major funded program, I was in awe to watch this young man put together a similar option here in the Roanoke Valley. To see people like Arthur Hill, who has worked the community gardens for years oftentimes by himself, pass along the art of growing and caring for this most precious resource was things that movies are made of. The young people were there paying attention to something that would seem to be boring. At least it was for me when I “had” to do it. These young people volunteered their summer to work, eat, learn, and live. The WELL is fully functional now. For 12 weeks this Summer, it was set up to provide a solution to the Food Desert of Northwest and it bought out many shoppers. Delegate Sam Rasoul was one of those shoppers that even bought his young son by. The little things like that are what helps bring the community together and helps raise it’s children. We are all going to have to eat, in order to eat you have to work. Learning along the way makes it easier to have a great time living. Seeing the young people involved with this project truly gave me hope for our next generation of leaders. Seeing the community coming out to support proved that change has come!