My name is Rachel and I am a student conducting research on how community gardens can benefit the Charlotte Hispanic community and trying to understand why so few members of that community are currently participating in community gardens.  I was wondering if anybody on here new of projects that currently target Hispanics or of gardens that currently have a decent amount of Hispanic participation.  Additionally any insights into the topic would be greatly appreciated.


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Two thoughts come to mind (though I don't actually have data to support them)--Hispanics who live in apartments, like anyone who lives in an apartment, are constrained by lack of land--most property managers would not be cool with people gardening in their space.  Second, a lot of individual plot gardens where people rent space are linked to neighborhood associations--at least that's how people learn about openings (and most have waiting lists...and there are good reasons for that), so depending on the ratio of Hispanic homeownership in a community versus rental (not to mention language barriers when those exist), you'll probably see corresponding ratios of participants in the gardens.  Gardens you might look at--school gardens in schools where there is a high Hispanic population--you can check to see how involved the parents get.  Two schools come to mind because they are part of the Friendship Gardens network--Billingsville Elementary and Shamrock Gardens Elementary, but I know Billingsville has struggled to get parent support on workdays, though teachers are quite involved.  And one of the teachers is Hispanic. Shamrock Gardens is transitioning, but they have had a little more parent and community involvement, but I don't know the demographics of that. You might also look at Winterfield Elementary, which is on Parks and Rec land, but has both individual plots and a school garden.  Great model, but I have no clue about participation there. I know there's a waiting list. 

I assume you've already talked to Latin American Coalition to see if they know about any programs specifically aimed at Hispanic gardeners, but you might also unpack the idea of a "Hispanic community" a little bit more.  My guess is that a project like community gardening that would be targeted at a purely political construct like "Hispanic community" won't get a lot of play because immigrant families probably do not see themselves as part of a broad "hispanic" community.  Sure, when it comes to getting political messages translated and finding stores that stock familiar items and brands, that kind of grouping works, but with gardening, it might be a harder sell. We did a mobile market in a predominantly hispanic, low-income neighborhood last summer and had a tremendous response, so it 's not that the demand for fresh produce isn't there, but there may be other cultural factors at play.

Just think about all the specialty stores on the Central Avenue corridor--bakeries and groceries within a block or two of one another--what kinds of regional differences exist between those stores that appeal to different segments of the "hispanic community"? Are people gardening in their backyards or balconies? Is there social stigma against gardening? Like I said, I'm not the expert.  If you're at UNCC, you should look up Audrey Henderson. She's in the Master's program in Latin American Studies and she's done work on Mexican immigrants and recycling, among other things and could probably help you with some connections as well as insights into how they shop and what kinds of foods have greater resonance. 

If you have questions about anything I've mentioned or want to visit some of the gardens, just send me a message: kathy@slowfoodcharlotte.org


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