Ariel Reyes Antuan and Jess Barton have started a community initiative to help racialized people facing food insecurity by providing them with burlap sack gardens. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Ariel Reyes Antuan and Jess Barton have started a community initiative to help racialized people facing food insecurity by providing them with burlap sack gardens. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Victoria duo tackles food insecurity in Victoria with burlap sack gardens

Palenke Greens initiative an homage to Black and Indigenous connections

Two Victoria community organizers are tackling the issue of food insecurity, particularly amongst racialized individuals, by offering tools to garden just about anywhere using a burlap sack.

Palenke Greens is an initiative that recently launched thanks to Ariel Reyes Antuan and Jess Barton. Together, they hope to work with Black, Indigenous and other racialized groups to “generate abundance” and a food sharing network.

“When you look in Victoria, people have so many beautiful gardens but when you go to racialized communities their reality is totally different,” Reyes Antuan said. “I started my own garden in the backyard which was hard at first but once I got used to it I started producing my own food. That’s a call for me to support my community and show people we don’t have to wait for government funding or a non-profit to do their job. We can do it ourselves.”

The project is a tribute to enslaved Africans who escaped plantations and the repressive systems they were living in during the late 18th early 19th century in places such as Cuba, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Haiti, Brazil and the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia.

Using guidance from local Indigenous people, Maroons – enslaved Africans that escaped plantations – created social-economic formations based on agriculture and mutual aid. The social systems were called Palenque o apalancamiento in Spanish or Palenkes.

These Palankes were located deep in the jungle where inhabitants worked together to harvest crops, hunt, fish and trade and barter.

In Victoria, the Palenke Greens initiative draws on African and Indigenous bonds formed at the time to revitalize practices – such as growing gardens in burlap sacks, commonly done in African countries – call on ancestral wisdom and support the community.

“When you talk to Black people about gardening, it triggers slavery times and the inter-generational traumas that come out,” Reyes Antuan said. “We need to start having these conversations to empower people. Food can heal our connection to the land.”

Stage one of the Palenke Greens project involves providing burlap sack gardens to 50 African-descent households facing food insecurity and disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each burlap sack can hold about 10 plants and costs $55. A GoFundMe campaign raised close to their $2,750 goal for the first part of the initiative within the first week. The City of Victoria also donated seedlings.

Depending on how stage one goes, they plan to expand to others in the community and eventually plant gardens in boulevards, near schools and near community centres.

Reyes Antuan said many people living in apartment buildings, renting a room in a home or in a basement suite don’t have the area to garden but as long as they have a sunny spot, they can use the burlap sack garden.

“A lot of people don’t have space to garden and community garden wait lists are so long,” Reyes Antuan said. “A lot of the time landlords don’t allow people to garden as well which to me is ridiculous.”

The hope, at the end of it all, is to come together with the community in a Palenke Greens harvest celebration.

“It’s a chance for us to come together and find a solution to issues we’re having,” Reyes Antuan said. “We’re the people and we have the power.”

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca

food securitygardening

Just Posted

3L Developments has stated it is pulling the plug on its plans to build a residential neighbourhood in the Stotan Falls area. The company has repeatedly offered to turn the Stotan Falls area into parkland, if the CVRD were to amend its Regional Growth Strategy to allow for a residential community to be built in the area. The CVRD has steadfastly turned down the development company. File photo.
Plugged pulled on decade-old Comox Valley development project

3L Developments say there will be no further development applications filed for Stotan Falls

The profitability of Victoria International Airport dropped by almost $17 million in 2020 because of COVID-19. (Black Press Media File)
Victoria International Airport revenues in a tailspin

While airport made $9.2 million in profits 2019, COVID-19 brought estimated losses of $7.5 million

(pixabay)
Simpson: Training for snowball fights best done in socks

It’s odd the things our kids do to make us proud

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

Terry Fong embraces his best friend Princeton at Incinerator Rock, which became the travelling companions’ favourite spot during five years of exploring. (Cam Shaw photo)
Tofino played key role in inspirational dog’s journey

Terry Fong explains his recently published book, ‘Princeton - A Love Story’

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

The Gardens at Qualicum Beach is now owned by family-owned The Care Group. (thegardensatqualicum.com)
The Gardens at Qualicum Beach has new owners

Family has travelled to Qualicum Beach for more than a century

Jude Somers of Oak Bay won the 2020 People’s Choice Award for her creation The Santa Train, during Habitat for Humanity’s 12th annual Gingerbread Showcase. (Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity)
Winners of Victoria’s 12th annual Gingerbread Showcase announced

Habitat for Humanity raises over $35,000 with annual event

Snowshoeing is gaining popularity in the community. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Snowshoes a hot-ticket item in the Comox Valley

Pandemic has sparked demand for trudging through Vancouver Island snow

Apollonian means “serene, calm, or well-balanced; poised & disciplined”. The natural photo art for the album includes Vancouver Island mountains, rivers and beaches. Scenes from the Cowichan River, Witchcraft Lake, Pipers Lagoon, Wall Beach and other popular Island recreation destinations accentuate the album. (RICHIErichieRichie Music Publishing photo)
Serenity Now! Richie Valley debuts third LP dubbed Apollonian

Apollonian means “serene, calm, or well-balanced; poised & disciplined”

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Most Read