Among the benefits of caring for a garden is the ability to shape and nurture the environment where diverse seeds and plants of your choice will thrive. You want to create a source of abundant blossoms or produce that will grow well in the local climate and add beauty to the yard or sustenance to your table. The region’s growing season is short, but it doesn’t limit the many cultural offerings a garden can flourish.
Read on for four ways to cultivate cultural connections in a backyard or community garden.
1 Plant flowers to honor your heritage.
Connect to your roots by growing blossoms that are reminiscent of your heritage. “My favorite gardens are at Claude Monet’s home in France,” says Valerie Eggers, a resident of Rochester and a native of France. “They still look exactly like the ones in his paintings!”
Eggers recalls her mother’s window boxes full of blooms, flowerbeds in the yard and a large vegetable garden with a greenhouse. “We had flowers and vegetables all year long, with daffodils and tulips in the gardens in February in Normandy.”
“One of my favorite French traditions is exchanging bouquets of lilies of the valley on the first of May, which is Labor Day in France,” she says. “Lily of the valley represents good luck, happiness, life, purity, renewal and joy.”
2 Bring diverse produce from the garden to the table.
Brian Petersen, farmer and owner of Greenleaf Gardens, is a 25-year vendor of Rochester Farmers Markets, offering a range of produce to satiate a variety of cultural appetites. In addition to traditional Midwest vegetables, the Petersen family’s small, organic farm markets produce with diverse backgrounds and purposes. Petersen shares, “One of the more unique things we sell is the blossoms from zucchini plants,” an item popular in Latin cuisine.
Petersen carries black garlic, which originates in Korea and is made through a fermentation process that turns it brownish black and sweeter. “Black garlic can be used in the same way as regular garlic. It is not as strong and has the same health properties and probiotic aspects,” he says. “We have a following for black garlic, because it’s not something you can find just anywhere.”
3 Create a garden retreat.
Relax outside and enjoy your vegetable garden or dine on the patio while viewing your blossoming flowerbeds. “Outdoor porch and patio furniture has really evolved,” says Kristin Welch, co-owner of Tyrol Ski & Sports. “It is comfortable and stylish while being low maintenance.” Add pieces to your outdoor space that reflect your heritage, from colorful art to textiles to furniture and other decor.
4 Support ethnic connections to the land.
Founded in 2019, the Village Agricultural Cooperative provides land access for diverse communities to grow food in urban Rochester areas. The nonprofit organization, which collaborates with Rochester Covenant Church, the History Center of Olmsted County and other partners, supports 200 families who rent land at multiple garden sites.
Co-founder Kim Sin, a member of the Cambodian community, explains, “As my family and many others who come to Rochester experience, either as a refugee or immigrant, it is really hard to preserve the cultural food that was part of our homeland. With access to land, families are able to continue to eat their cultural food, cut down on food expenses and create a sense of belonging.”
Nurture a garden, nurture yourself, nurture diverse communities. You can support the Village Agricultural Cooperative to enhance and expand cultural gardening opportunities. ::