As Charlotte Baha’i garden takes root, other activities grow
Dell Campbell is eager to talk about the Unity Garden behind the Baha’i center in Charlotte, North Carolina. But first there’s bamboo to cut for a higher fence that just might keep deer out.
The Baha’i center is located in an African-American neighborhood Campbell calls “somewhat of a food desert” because very few residents have access to affordable natural food.
Seeding the growth of food options made sense to the Charlotte Spiritual Assembly, the local Baha’i governing council, when in 2017 Campbell laid out his vision.
“The goal is to create a beautiful garden oasis where participants can be empowered to produce their own food, share food, feed the hungry” and introduce children to organic gardening, he says.
Campbell had seen just such a garden flourish at the Louis G. Gregory Baha’i Institute in Hemingway, South Carolina, when he served there three decades ago. When the Charlotte Baha’is acquired a center in the Grier Heights neighborhood, he figured, there was no reason a garden couldn’t bring people together there.
And it has. The garden is “building bonds of friendship and cooperation with friends and neighbors in the Grier Heights community,” he says.
Nine plots are in use and nearly 20 people actively participating, including children and extended family members, says Campbell. Most gardeners are from Grier Heights.
“While we are gardening, many of the children are in children’s classes. Most of the members are young adults with two or three children and have expressed their love for gardening.
“During harvest, participants’ families and friends often stop by for visits,” he continues. “Community gardening is empowering and can improve our understanding of the physical environments and increase the health of our community.”
Outgrowths of the project include a devotional gathering led by one of the gardeners, as well as women’s and men’s discussion groups.
Connection with neighbors has strengthened to the point that when the daughter of a gardener died, the family requested that the memorial service be held at the Baha’i center. More than 100 people attended, many of them neighbors.
Many residents also participated in celebrations this past October of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith.
While there, a number of young people toured the garden. One youth is learning carpentry by turning some old playground equipment into a greenhouse.
“After a slow start and much learning, 2019 has been our best year,” he concludes. “The project is blossoming like a flower.”
As an elder family member of a gardener told Campbell, “Y’all have a beautiful thing going on down there,” speaking of the garden and core activities. “It’s like sitting on the beach and feeling the sun rising.”