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Family Garden Program Provides Safe Space For Growing Food

One way to eat more healthy food is to grow your own veggies. The non-profit Huerto de la Familia helps low-income Latino families in Eugene and Springfield.

Zarate: “So, welcome to the garden. This is our largest of all of our 6 locations. This one has around 40 families in it.”
Marissa Zarate leads a tour of Churchill Garden in Eugene.
Zarate:  “Buenas Dias!”
Zarate is the Executive Director of Huerto de la Familia, in English, Family Garden. The organization runs the community garden program serving families in Eugene and Springfield. Zarate says the idea is to create a welcoming place for people to grow organic food in their own garden plots.
Zarate: “Our focus is Latino families. There’s a really specific reason for that which is that if you look at statistics the poverty rate for Latinos in Oregon is 28%. And for Caucasian Oregonians, it’s 14%. So it’s double for Latinos.”
Zarate says Huerto offers assistance with seeds and gardening advice for its members so they can be successful in growing their own food.

Credit Rachael McDonald

Catalina Angeles and her family have been with Huerto for more than 5 years. She says having their garden plot has helped her family eat healthy. Her 7 year old daughter has grown up with the garden.

Gardening is relaxing. After spending a half an hour or one hour there I feel so good.

Angeles: “She started to be at the garden when she was 2 years old. So now she knows a lot of plant’s names and she eats very well.”
Angeles says her daughter is willing to eat more veggies because she helped grow them.
Angeles: “Sometimes she says, oh I don’t want to eat the salad and I tell her, but it’s from your garden and she says, oh, oh, okay then I will eat it!”
Angeles says she finds it very affordable to grow her own organic food instead of purchasing it.
Angeles: “Absolutely, it’s cheaper to eat organic if you grow it. And it’s very easy. It’s super easy. It’s not that difficult.”

Credit Rachael McDonald

Angeles grew up in Mexico City. She says she didn’t know anything about gardening until she joined Huerto. She likes to grow things like chili peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos… even kale.
Huerto’s Marissa Zarate says there are challenges for Latino immigrants seeking community in Eugene and Springfield.

Credit Rachael McDonald

Zarate: “Families here, a lot of them here might have a language barrier that may prevent or intimidate them from participating with other community opportunities. So this is a space where they can come and meet other families that they can connect culturally but also new families from the community.”
Zarate says in the political climate that’s become more hostile toward Latinos since President Trump was elected, there’s more uncertainty for immigrants. She says Huerto has become more active in the community to organize and educate people about their rights.
Zarate: “We can’t just be on the defense. We can’t just be fighting back when there’s racist acts happening in the community or threats to the immigrant community. We need to support the pro-active and wonderful things that are happening to create safe spaces already and show that those spaces are important to all of us here.”
Zarate says the gardens are a safe space. Catalina Angeles agrees. She says working in her garden plot has become something restorative.
Angeles: “Gardening is relaxing. After spending a half an hour or one hour there I feel so good. I feel good to be here. With time it becomes addictive. I want to go to my garden!”
Huerto continues to grow. Zarate says there’s a waiting list for its garden plots. The non-profit is now creating a new garden in partnership with the Bethel school district.


Copyright 2017 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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