The Nashville Food Project has five community gardens across the city that hold space for community members living in the neighborhood and provide garden space for local families who are originally from Burma, Bhutan, and Western and Central African countries. To learn more about the community gardens visit thenashvillefoodproject.org/community-gardens.
It’s been said time and time again that we all learn differently. Some people like to see visuals, others need to hear new information, others need to do before they fully understand. Now imagine your favorite teacher. How did they make you feel? Did they look like you, talk like you and make you feel like you belonged in that space and in that community?
At The Nashville Food Project we believe that learning and teaching have less to do with curriculum and everything to do with leadership, belonging, and understanding needs. We believe that leadership must come from within the community to make a difference and help grow connection. For that reason each community garden has selected one or two leaders to represent their communities needs in the garden. Garden leaders are responsible for communicating with gardeners at their site, maintaining the garden space, teaching garden lessons (site dependent), and representing each participant’s concerns and interests to The Nashville Food Project Garden Staff. We also have two Community Navigators who provide cultural and language based guidance in our Growing Together and New American Community Garden sites.
Providing leadership opportunities to people within their own communities just makes sense. Each community navigator and garden leader has the best understanding of what their community needs and ways to the best approach to satisfy those needs. The Nashville Food Project does have a role here and it is to provide garden leaders and participants with the opportunities to lead, the resources to be successful, and the space to meet with others in similar positions.
Recently Community Garden Manager, Kia Brown and Garden Director, Lauren Bailey met with six garden leaders to host a leadership training on how to teach people for understanding. There was a space for garden leaders to share stories about their favorite teachers and why their methods of teaching made a big impact. With over several cultures being represented in the meeting it gave a chance to learn new approaches to learning and understanding that may not have been considered before. At the same time garden leaders found affirmation in their practices in which peers also found success. By combining cross-cultural experiences and perspectives it gives community leaders support and strength to meet their communities needs in a way that working alone never can, within and outside of the garden.
It's possible that today the training will only help garden leaders teach the best ways to prevent pests. But tomorrow it can help garden leaders meet a greater need in their families, neighborhoods, and communities by creating a safe space to learn, grow, and change together.