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Growers’ Alliance brings fresh food to Del Paso Heights
By Gabrielle Myers
One day not long ago, I visited the International Garden of Many Colors with the Del Paso Heights Growers’ Alliance co-directors.
The 3-acre garden is cultivated primarily by elderly immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and Afghanistan. The Growers’ Alliance worked with the Sacramento Food Policy Council to help preserve the garden and supply it with essentials such as city water.
Tall sunchoke flowers leaned toward grape vines flush with hanging fruit. Tomato bushes studded with brilliant red fruits shouldered heirloom purple collard greens. The seeds were brought to the Del Paso area from Alabama in the 1930s. A cherry tree from Ukraine waved at us from near the fence. The cherries are dried for tea.
Fatima Malik-Wilson, founder of the Growers’ Alliance, has a passion for food education and advocacy. Raised in Del Paso Heights, she would often make meals of chips, candy bars and soda as a teenager. At Grant High School, she worked in the school garden and began to understand the food depravation around her.
“The school garden saved my life,” Malik-Wilson says. “It taught me how plants grow. It gave me an outlet. It was therapy. It helped me get off the streets and have more positive outlets.”
Malik-Wilson studied agriculture at UC Davis and returned to Grant High to teach in a learning kitchen. She loved explaining how to create healthy meals, but realized fresh fruits and vegetables were scarce in her community. Frustration propelled her into advocacy.
“You can’t tell people to eat fruits and vegetables if there are none available in that community,” she says.
Malik-Wilson and other Growers’ Alliance co-directors—Max Rosa, Yemanya Napue and Janea Hackett-Little—fight for food equity and sovereignty in Del Paso Heights and other areas of North Sacramento.
With a commitment to tending soil and environmental health, plus improving social and economic conditions in the area, the Growers’ Alliance helps residents gain access to garden plots and tools, and other implements needed for gardens.
The alliance knows the transformative benefits of growing your own food. Cultivation, garden fresh cooking and safe community places have profound impacts on the neighborhood’s residents.
In addition to caretaking garden plots at the International Garden of Many Colors, Sugar Cane Garden and Root Cellar, the Growers’ Alliance offers gardening and cooking workshops.
The organization focuses on providing green spaces and social networking opportunities for people of color with the goal of making it all “accessible, affordable and equitable—at no cost.”
In addition to offering an Urban Permaculture course this fall for community members, the group hopes to cultivate opportunities around food and business cooperatives to create “sustainable villages” in the neighborhood.
With an intimate knowledge of the community, the team respects cultural preferences. It grows fruits and vegetables preferred by community members. In short, Malik-Wilson and her team “produce the environment we want to live in” and give others the means to do the same.
The Growers’ Alliance hopes to build deeper relationships with the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, not just to learn about different practices that might benefit the community, but to bring more opportunities and investment to this historically marginalized neighborhood.
The Growers’ Alliance, run by passionate and hard-working people from the Del Paso community, meets the third Saturday of each month to care for the International Garden of Many Colors. Volunteers are encouraged to join them.
The Del Paso Heights Growers’ Alliance is holding a volunteer day, Saturday, Nov. 19, 9 a.m. to noon, at the International Garden of Many Colors at 1000 Northfield Drive.
In partnership with Federalist Public House, the group is hosting a fundraising “Pizza for Plants” brunch Saturday, Nov. 5., 9:30 a.m., at 2009 Matsui Alley.
For more information, visit sierraserviceproject.org/dphga.
Gabrielle Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her latest book of poetry, “Too Many Seeds,” can be ordered from fishinglinepress.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.