Gibrian Hagood had never gardened before he received seeds and a 5-gallon bucket of soil from Tompkins Community Action two years ago. During the summer, his bucket garden filled up with more fresh produce than Gibrian thought possible. Last year Gibrian rented a plot in a community garden and grew even more. Now Gibrian is volunteering to teach others through Seed to Supper, a free series of classes for budding gardeners.
Gibrian, an Ithaca native, returned to the area four years ago and works at Cornell Cooperative Extension as an Energy Educator helping people use energy more efficiently. Last summer he rented a plot in the Floral Avenue Community Garden in order to expand his gardening ambitions.
“I decided to get a garden plot instead of a bucket because I figured that I could get more from a garden,” he said.
The garden produced a range of fruits and vegetables, including watermelon, cantaloupe, collard greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, zucchini, and lettuce.
“The benefit is having fresh food on your table, when you’re cooking it's always good to cook with fresh ingredients rather than canned,” Gibrian said.
Gibrian views gardening as a “therapeutic extracurricular” that produces fresh produce for his home.
“It's a way of you and mother earth coming together and seeing what grows. Seeing what you plant grow is amazing,” Gibrian said. “They say that when you’re cooking, if you cook with love, tenderness, and care your food will come out better. It's the same thing with gardening, it's really about how you take care of that garden that determines the result.”
The community aspect of gardening in the Floral Ave Community Garden also impacted Gibrian.
“You see the same people in the community garden and you get to meet the people who live down the street. It's good that you get to share that experience,” he said. “And everyone says ‘Oh did your greens grow? Did your tomatoes grow?’ So it's a great way of meeting your community and sharing garden stories or talking about whatever is going on in your life.”
Gibrian expressed the connection and appreciation for his ancestors that he experienced while gardening,
“That therapeutic experience came from imagining how slaves felt picking cotton on a hot day in July,” he said. “I was thinking, boy am I lucky to have the choice to do my own gardening without having to do it and certainly without a master watching me in the fields.”
While the added fresh produce supplemented his grocery shopping, Gibrian says that gardens have their limits due to their unpredictability and relatively small size.
“Unless you have a really, really good garden and are really a master at it, it's not going to change the impact of someone’s financial burden when it comes to putting food on the table,” he said. “It’s great to grow your own food and have fresh fruits and vegetables from your own garden, but it's not something that's going to have a large impact on cost.”
This summer, Gibrian is helping to facilitate introductory urban gardening classes at Southside Community Center through the Seed to Supper program.
“For people who want to have a garden, we’ll be over there to give expertise and advice. We’ll have a class every week this summer and whatever those questions are, we’ll be able to answer,” Gibrian said.
The weekly class time is especially helpful for beginning gardeners, according to Gibrian.
“It's good to have a weekly meeting where everyone can ask questions or address concerns about their own garden,” he said. “Some gardens don’t take off and need more help.”
As for advice to would-be gardeners, Gibrian says that interested people and families shouldn’t hesitate to get started.
“I had a great experience. Jump right into it!”