Dec 31st, 2017

Gardening with Ginter Urban Gardeners

Elisa Bennett

Elisa Bennett with other members of the Ginter Urban Gardeners, showing a planting pot made from newspaper.

Making a Difference One Garden at Time

The day I decided to browse the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden website beyond the home page felt very serendipitous. Inspired by the recent Garden Times newsletter that arrived in my mailbox, I decided to reacquaint myself with the Garden.

Planting trees to make Richmond more beautiful -- the best kind of gardening.

Kathleen Ingram preparing to plant one of the many fruit trees installed by the Ginter Urban Gardeners at the Powhatan Community Center Community Garden.

As I browsed, I stumbled across information on the Urban Gardening cohort and noticed some familiar faces from the first class, John Taylor, and Ram Bhagat. I put on my research hat and started a Google search on “Urban Gardening Cohort + Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.” What I found inspired me. So, without over thinking it, I filled out the application.

In filling out the application, I begin to dream about all the possibilities gained from more knowledge and exposure to urban gardening. When asked why I joined, my reason initially felt selfish, “Because I want to feel confident to build a garden in my own backyard.” Yet, as I went through the 12-week program,  I’ve come to realize my statement wasn’t selfish, but instead spoke to a deeper desire that I discovered through the program.

Building a garden in my own backyard — when explored on a deeper level — reflects my personal desire to have healthy eating options without constantly relying on external grocery stores and businesses. This has become especially important for me due to a variety of food allergies.  In essence, I don’t want my livelihood tied exclusively to businesses and what they choose to offer to the public. On the simplest level,  it’s the desire to be in control of my body and health. Not feeling restricted by the limitations that exist within the local stores is powerful. It’s an extraordinary mind shift and applies to many other areas of my life.  I believe such a mind shift can be cultivated and more importantly inspired by the simple act of creating and maintaining a backyard garden, community garden and/or rooftop garden.

Gardening for Good

Elisa Bennett gardening and digging in the dirt.

Elisa Bennett spreading out gravel rocks around larger stones to complete a garden pathway.

On this journey, I have found that there is a ripple-effect related to gardening beyond all the obvious fun stuff like getting dirty, planting cute seedling, exchanging seeds with friends, sampling new crops, “grocery shopping” in the garden, working outside on a sunny day and walking barefoot through the pathways.  I often use the analogy of an empty well versus a full well to help describe how profound this ripple effect has been in my own life. As my “well” filled through all the people that poured into my life through this program their knowledge, skills, passions, and visions for stronger, healthier communities, I am now able to look beyond myself to inspire and be inspired to co-create in my community and with others.

Teamwork: Ginter Urban Gardeners group laying stone in a new urban garden in Richmond, VA.

Ginter Urban Gardeners setting stone in the Powhatan Community Center Community Garden in the East End of Richmond.

Thank you, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Thank you, Duron. Thank you, Hope in The Cities. Cheers and congratulations to my classmates, the Urban Gardening Cohort of Fall 2017!  Each of you left a lasting impression on me and I look forward to reconnecting and seeing each of you find and plug into your different passions.

Elisa Bennett grew up in Northern Virginia and moved to Richmond to pursue a degree in Spanish and Education. With high hopes of moving out west upon graduation, she surprised herself when she instead accepted a job teaching Spanish and decided to stay in the area. Over a decade later - her journey has taken her to over 14 different countries and given her a priceless perspective on enjoying the simple things in life or what she likes to call, “Sacred Ordinary Days.” She currently works as the Program Coordinator with The Chrysalis Institute, a non-profit that helps individuals explore age-old questions in new ways. She can often be found on a trail along the James River with her dog Señor, making crafts at home, cooking up a new recipe, saving seeds, pausing throughout the day to have mindful moments and doing yoga while also mustering up the courage -- to start her own backyard garden.

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