By Soil Generation member, Kehmari Norman
I look 14. I noticed a re-tweet online that read:
I like my women to age like wine, not like milk.
I laughed. I thought deeply. My mom looks 29. By wisdom, force, and/or obligation, my ancestors ate certain foods and retained a sacred relationship with such foods. These tokens of wisdom, force-fed, obligatory edibles live in the garden that I serve in North Philadelphia and are handled in a similar fashion. I forage and fast in the heart of a food desert. The 15th Street Garden, on the corner of 15th and Diamond Street, is, to me, a time capsule. I've helped to construct this portal starting in 2014
– just about two years ago, and via care, landscape design, labor organization, care, shared time, care, love, will and want, crop cultivation, study, care, learning, and listening. It is a time capsule because the work, or love-making, that occurs there activate a cultural memory. Again, I forage and fast here. The prophets did this, too, though I am unsure if what they picked were dandelion leaves and purslane, as I do today.
I ate the rind of a watermelon I grew here last summer. I feel that my distant grandmother from many orange moons ago – the same orange hue of the melon’s meat – did this same delicacy in central Africa. The elders of North Philly that visit 15th Street Garden remind me that this work is not a millenial’s sexy trend, as widely recognized nowadays. This craft is a part of an ongoing legacy and a continuation of culture. I am grateful for their presence, always. They are aging wonderfully – like fine wine. One elder admitted to me that this vitality is so because our biological makeup aligns with the food’s biological chemistry; and so the food that we grow is what we are born to eat. At the 15th Street Garden, we've collaboratively put the following crops into the soil to harvest:
mustard greens, chard, blackberries, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, sage, thyme, chives, lemon balm, rosemary, oregano, mint, scallions...
Some of the wild edibles that I use and recognize include: burdock, plantain, dandelion, purslane, though the extensive biodiversity of the garden’s wild foods, I am ignorant to at this time.
No attention in the garden, nor in my body, is given to milk-like eats – those food stuffs that are from carnivore and are processed. With my eye on the prize of continually aging like wine, and with the help of the 15th Street Garden byway of the Philadelphia Urban Creators (PUC), I've defined my life’s purpose. Alex Epstein, co-executive director of PUC, trusted me – a then Temple undergrad with a focal study in theater design, and absolutely no agricultural experience – to manage a community garden. I've realized that my purpose on Earth is to help people to heal themselves with foods, fasting and growing activity. This intention controls my relationship with the Garden. We – the Garden and I – are still newly weds, again 2 years in. We maintain an open relationship with all, and primarily North Philly folk. Join us. Visit us. I am in a state of joy as a partner here, googly-eyed even. I started this article off writing about a Twitter quote; those words are whispered in the winds blowing through the Garden.