We were so grateful to read this INSPIRED article "Hey Thanks, Nashville Food Project" in this week's Nashville Scene. Each Scene editor was asked to write a thank you letter to a person, place or organization in Nashville. The Scene's culture editor, Erica Ciccarone, was a community gardener with TNFP at Wedgewood Urban Gardens this summer. The thank-you letter written to us (below) is the the first of eight "letters" listed in piece. Check out the original feature here.
By Erica Ciccarone
My introduction to your organization came around this time last year, when I volunteered in your Wedgewood Urban Garden — more out of curiosity than a desire to be of service. Immediately, I was smitten. Over the course of the past year, I’ve turned compost with a big pitchfork, clipped buttery leaves of lettuce, collected eggs from your chicken coop and sunk my bare hands into soil.
You gave me a garden plot through the community gardening program, and I learned to tend my very own 40-square-foot patch of soil, which in turn tended to me with a bounty of tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, squash and basil. The garden has been a haven, without politics or Twitter or deadlines — just sun and rain, earth and bugs. Between volunteering and the community garden, I broke bread with fellow gardeners from Bhutan and Burma, and I pulled weeds and sprinkled seeds with musicians, teachers, corporate executives and missionaries. You’ve provided me with an opportunity to internalize your values: that all Nashvillians deserve access to nourishing, delicious food; that we should welcome immigrants and refugees and create systems that benefit us all; and that growing food together can teach us how to be better stewards of the land.
That’s just how you’ve affected one person. I’ll throw down some stats: In 2017 alone, 3,758 Nashvillians volunteered in your gardens and kitchens and drove your trucks to partner sites. Sixty-nine families grew food with your knowledgeable, nurturing garden managers. Your gardens produced 15,780 pounds of organic compost, diverting 120,648 pounds (!) of food waste from landfills. Every week, you provide 4,000 meals and snacks, prepared in your two kitchens, to hungry Nashvillians. Your food trucks deliver these to after-school programs, emergency shelters and ESL classes.
I first came to your Wedgewood Urban Garden as a volunteer because of a memory. When I was a child, my father and I converted our sandbox into a small raised garden bed. Our crops were limited to Italian-American necessities — peppers, tomatoes and basil — but something else grew with them: a closeness we achieved without effort. Planting seeds together nurtured our relationship for years down the road. I’ve lived far from home for almost 20 years, and neither of us is very good at picking up the phone. But the closeness persists. My father and I grew together. We are growing together.
That’s what is so crucial about you, The Nashville Food Project. You provide an opportunity for people all over the city to build relationships through the most ordinary, ancient of activities: growing, cooking and eating. Thank you for reminding me of the value of community that’s formed through learning — the excitement of sharing a lesson with peers, of sampling Bhutanese cuisine, of discovering cucumber beetle eggs with a friend and squishing them with our fingers. Our city is better because you exist.