Diversity is important to me in all that I do. Just like in my garden, I seek diversity in opportunities offered in life that interest me. Unfortunately, diversity does not always follow. While I am aware that I am not the ONLY person of color that is interested in horticulture, I am curious as to why I keep seeing me at the table? There has to be a reason why there are very few minority groups represented? I yearn to learn more about the history and effect of minorities in horticulture. I don’t think I am the only one.
Elementary school taught us a few facts about the Settlers and the relationship with the Native Indians. After a substantial number of deaths of English Settlers in the “New World”, Captain John Smith had an idea. Captain Smith thought it prudent to communicate with the Native Indians to survive. The Native Indians taught him many things about the readily available food grown natively. This helped the English Settlers survive in this new land.
In Virginia, the Powhatan Indians helped the Settlers survive by teaching them how to farm. The Settlers figured out they needed more hands to survive after killing or relocating the Native Indians. The use of slave labor and indentured servants allowed the Settlers another chance at survival. The diversity amongst these people creates the fabric of horticulture as we know it.
To be transplanted and have to start life in unfamiliar surroundings must have been surreal and unimaginable. Consider being hungry and not know what is edible or not? Imagine toiling in soil that was not your own native soil and plants that were different? The expectation to decipher what was or was not edible, how to clear and plant with no tools or minimally how to survive daily? This must have been quite difficult as well as a daunting challenge. The creative mind had to make the best of it, as a return ticket to home was not going to happen.
According to Agricultural astrology, planting by the Moon’s phases is a successful practice. It becomes quite evident when you look at the growth of things planted during this time. As far as we know, this practice started in the Nile and Euphrates river regions. Diversity has helped with things like using plants and roots common to the United States for food and also as a medicine. Therefore, one cannot ignore the presence of diversity in creating tools from scratch, as well as methods and use of plantings.
Many groups have different methods and logic behind how they grow, whether it is food or for beauty. Why not share? To be perfectly honest, the statistics show although the demographic of landscape employees is predominantly Hispanic. Yet, I do not see a large number of Hispanic or other Minorities as I attend events relating to horticulture. The number of African-American and Asian contributions to this industry isn’t even widely reported. This saddens me.
As I delve deeper into the wonderful world of garden writing, I would love to see and read more about gardening, as well as nature, from a diverse audience. Diversity is a placeholder in the greenhouse of horticultural education. Horticulture is a greenhouse that is constantly growing seedlings for the future. These greenhouse sown seedlings are always ready to be transplanted to horticulturists of all ethnicities. There are rootings of opportunity that grow in this greenhouse from cuttings of the past. These rootings are available to all those wanting to grow in horticulture, whether for personal or career-related benefits. There are opportunities curated specifically for minorities that often remain untouched. Why are we not coming to the table? I am certain that there is a diverse audience that has something to share.
There are several new books that speak to embracing the diversity in what we grow. Wendy Kiang-Spray has written an awesome book called “The Chinese Kitchen Garden – Growing Techniques and Family Recipes From A Classic Cuisine”. Wendy shares the trials and joy of learning how to cook traditional Chinese dishes and shares some of her family histories as well.
Michael Twitty, food historian, speaker, and author of “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South” shares quite a bit in his own words as well. Slavery was not good nor was it glamorous. It did, however, change the culinary history of the South. As an African-American, I am quite proud of this fact. No matter what ethnicity you are, I am certain that there are horticultural practices to be proud of.
Therefore, whether young or old, diversity can open up a new world of opportunity and discovery. As I attend conferences, join committees and take my seat at the table – I only see me. Where are we? Why not share your horticultural family stories? Write about your journey into the wonderful world of gardening. We have quite a bit to be proud of.
I know we are out there – where are we?
Teri, Cottage In The Courtby