“We are committed to doing what we can to help bring life to our earth,” Morgan-Stokes says. “And in the midst of the city, the garden is the place where we can see life, health and beauty in a time and in a place where maybe it’s hard to find.”
The original partners, including Grace United Methodist Church, Literacy Achieves and The Agape Clinic, helped set up irrigation, secure permits for watering and purchase the lumber needed to make the beds.
The outdoor area has served more purposes than just a place to garden. Over the pandemic, it was a safe space to hold memorial services. And now, with Barrett at the helm, the garden is growing again.
Volunteers met in early October to begin planting a food forest, which involves packing a small space with food-producing plants. It is also related to permaculture, which mostly disregards aesthetics and focuses on food sustainability.
“It’s an emphasis on being as nature-like as possible,” Barrett says.
They planned to plant 17 fruit- and nut-bearing trees, which will shed leaves that will decompose and add nutrients to the soil. They also plan to add shrubs, leafy and herbaceous plants, root plants and vines.
“Ideally this will serve as a beacon to the community of what food can be and what it can do,” she says.
The food forest has been supported through a fundraiser and donations from Jimmy’s Food Store, Walton’s Garden Center and other local businesses. Barrett and the church are hoping to raise enough funds to double the number of beds and build a covered stage that can be used for outdoor worship services and educational opportunities for local students.
For Barrett, the food forest is not just a way to help feed the community. It reflects her own ideas about climate justice and has made her feel empowered. She even has a shirt that says, “grow food, not lawns.”
“And that’s just how I feel,” she says. “So as much food as I can grow, that’s what I want to do. And it really lit my fire to see that that can be the way that I resist climate change personally.”