A garden for Earth Day

Scene of the Cape Fear River, featuring a fish trap rock formation, with trees visible across the water
Raven Rock State Park, Cape Fear River, NC. Photo by Gerry Dincher, CC BY-SA 2.0.

On Earth Day this year, we’re thinking about the intersections between social and environmental justice and how we can show up for both in our communities. In honor of the Garden Issue making its way to mailboxes now, we’ve compiled a list of organizations that support gardens, gardeners, what gardens need (water, pollinators, and the like), as well as green and growing spaces and the equitable access to them.

These are difficult and wearying times, and the burdens are unequally distributed through our communities. If you find yourself with resources to share, these organizations are wonderful places to consider lending support in whatever way you are able. This list is by no means comprehensive, but we hope it offers a handful of seeds, a place to begin.

Co-founded by Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-Indigenous community farm with a wide range of programs that serve over ten thousand people each year. In their words, they are committed to the intertwined goals of “uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system.” Their work encompasses every level of farming and food justice—individual, communal, systemic, and spiritual. They train and mentor farmer-activists, host a community-sourced reparations map for BIPOC farmers, develop youth food-justice workshops, deliver food to under-resourced households, and educate policy makers. They are currently seeking donations as part of a development initiative to fortify the foundation and future of the farm, as they build new infrastructure that will make their food-sovereignty work sustainable for decades to come.

On a nationwide level, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance is a network of Black-led organizations focused on Black food sovereignty, furthering Black visions for sustainability and justice, and creating self-determining food economies. Their food map and directory is an invaluable community resource. Their website offers several ways to donate and otherwise support their work, including contacting your senators in support of the Justice for Black Farmers Act.

The Asian Pacific Environmental Network amplifies the power of Asian immigrant and refugee communities in California through community organizing around environmental justice. Located in the Bay Area—specifically in Richmond and in Oakland Chinatown—APEN’s work includes community gardening projects, health education, multilingual environmental emergency alerts, eviction protections, and advocacy for affordable housing and safe working conditions. Since the 1990s, APEN has supported and nurtured young activists through the Asian Youth Advocates summer program.

Here in what is now known as North Carolina, American Indian Mothers Inc. is a cultural organization and social support agency that serves American Indians and other minorities in rural communities. They work to support women and empower and preserve families at the margins, offering transitional housing, counseling, job training, cultural awareness, scholarships, and mentoring. AIMI also works to address food insecurity and hunger on both the immediate level with food banks and meal programs, and on the systemic level with a community organic farm and cannery, a partnership between farms, fisheries, ranches, and tribes in the southeastern part of the state.

For more than thirty years, the Indigenous Environmental Network has been fighting for environmental and economic justice. IEN works to support tribal governments and Indigenous communities in protecting sacred sites, caring for the environment, promoting dialogue, and creating sustainable economies.

Founded by an artist and an activist, Signal Fire Arts is dedicated to connecting artists to our remaining wild places. They develop wilderness studio programs and backcountry retreats on public lands to advocate for equitable access—as well as preservation of—open landscapes. Signal Fire provides fellowships for communities typically marginalized from the culture of outdoor exploration and American environmentalism. They also offer yearly Indigenous artist retreats, designed by Native artists for Native artists.  During the pandemic, Signal Fire has been offering BIPOC Virtual Workshops. They are returning to in-the-field programming this summer and are currently accepting applications.

Across North America, Pollinator Partnership seeks to preserve and protect the health of pollinator species with a multifacted approach of conservation, education, and research. Every year, the Partnership sponsors Pollinator Week; this year’s weeklong celebration of pollinator goodness starts on June 21. Year round, the Partnership promotes bee-friendly farming, disburses honey-bee health grants, distributes school gardening kits, provides educational modules and trainings on pollinator protection, and generally works to increase pollinator habitats and decrease threats. They provide ecoregional planting guides, a useful resource for any Earth Day planting project.

Finally, we’ll end with a fundamental need of every human and every garden: water. The Waterkeeper Alliance is fighting for the basic human right to clean water worldwide. They work toward the goal of drinkable, fishable, swimmable water for every community through education, advocacy, legal work, policy, and action. The Alliance patrols and protects waterways on six continents through an extensive community network—you can find your nearest waterkeeper here to learn about water in your place and get involved locally. Ecotone is edited and published from the Cape Fear River Basin, where local folks can support the Cape Fear River Watch and join clean-up days and other socially distanced volunteer opportunities.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

This post was compiled by Ecotone postgraduate fellow Sophia Stid.