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Lake Effect’s Joy Powers chats with Venice Williams, the executive director of Alice’s Garden and the Fondy Food Center, about gardening, herbal remedies and healthy cooking.

Dig In!: The history and impact of the African American heritage garden

Collard greens growing
Govind Jangir/Wirestock
Adobe Stock
Collard greens are often a big part of African American heritage gardens.

February is Black History Month, a time when we reflect on the many ways African Americans have shaped our nation and culture. Food and food cultivation is an integral part of that history — it’s a story of survival and resourcefulness that continues to this day.

Lake Effect contributor Venice Williams, the executive director of Alice’s Garden and the Fondy Food Center, talks about that history and how you can plant your own African American heritage garden.

"The origins of an African American Heritage garden, of course, go back to Africa, before many of our ancestors were captured and enslaved," Williams explains. "In every village, in every community, we cultivated food and had an ability to cultivate food in such an incredible way. ... We still held on to so much of the beauty and the power and understanding that our ability to grow food was one of those things that could never be taken away from us."

And while enslaved, our ancestors were given food, foraged for food and grew their own food, she adds.

Heritage gardens today often incorporate the same things that were found in those gardens then, like collard greens, mustard greens, cabbages and turnips. Williams says different types of tomatoes are often also included as well as eggplants, black eyed peas and okra.

Williams recommends shopping at Sistah Seeds and the Seedstead to help get started and reading African American Gardens: Yards in the Rural South by Richard Westmacott.


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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