We have learned a lot from 2020. We’ve had the outbreak of COVID-19, which is still causing life-altering changes for many of us, global climate catastrophes, and most recently the US presidential elections.
When the outbreak began to threaten our people, I was just finishing a week-long political education course in Florida with our friends from the USFSA, the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance. Being with all these comrades and allies in the movement to improve our food and political systems was timely in giving me the energy for the work that has been done during this 2020 season.
When we started hearing about people losing their jobs and losing their lives, I felt compelled to produce as much food as possible. I saw the need for food that was free of pesticides and that would help the community keep their immune system strong.
This growing season, because of travel and curfew restrictions, I focused on the CATA Community Garden in Bridgeton NJ, a place where most of CATA's membership is located. The work in the garden is done on a voluntary basis by members of the community. The number of volunteers this year decreased as some were in the “at risk” categories. I, along a smaller group of community members, worked every week during the season to ensure a good production of organic and healthy crops for everyone. Our production increased significantly this year compared to last year. We harvested a total of 150 lbs. of hot peppers with a variety of 9 different peppers! Other crops that were harvested included 205 pounds of tomato, 250 pounds of tomatillos, 75 bunches of purslane, 64 bunches of chard, and 120 bunches of papalo, to give a few examples. Overall, we harvested more than 900 pounds of organic produce from the Community Garden.
We saw that one of the immediate needs of the community, apart from financial support, was food. There were several local food distribution efforts, mostly distributing canned and packaged food, so we did our best to plant and grow fresh food. We partnered with some of these efforts to provide the community with fresh, pesticide-free food produced right there in CATA's Community Garden.
This year, we started a market to be able to distribute fresh and organic produce and to talk to people about what kinds of products we should grow that are culturally appropriate.
We started with our market, Seeds of Hope, once every two weeks, but as the production and popularity of the market increased, we ended up doing it once a week until through the end of the harvest in October. We had a total of 20 market days during the season.
We ended the 2020 season in the garden with the creation of a Day of the Dead altar, a Mexican tradition to honor and remember deceased loved ones. Through a small celebration, we remembered all those who have lost their lives due to COVID, during their migratory journey and in their place of work due to inadequate conditions, the victims of femicide, the black lives lost, and all our loved ones who are no longer with us in this earthly world.
Support our Food Justice Program and help us grow our Weekly Markets next season! This year we need to raise $5,000, so we can feed more people! We are also starting a new youth program this upcoming year. Your donation will go a long way towards helping us beyond just the first cohort! We appreciate any help you can provide. Donate here.
Learn more about our Food Justice program here. Any questions or for more information about how to volunteer at CATA's Community Garden, please reach out to CATA's Food Justice Coordinator, Kathia Ramirez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like to thank our supporters for donations of plants, seedlings, tools, compost, and more.