FeaturedLife and Arts

Umoja Center hosts gardening event

Umoja Center held an event at the Bayside Park Farm in Arcata to help promote the space on Sept. 24. Attendees got a tour of the farm and were able to work on multiple gardening projects. This farm serves as an extended oasis of the Umoja Center.

In 2021, Douglas Smith, coordinator of the Umoja Center for Pan African Student Excellence, started a project called Black to the Land in hopes of educating people about gardening at the Bayside Park Farm.

“There are stereotypes about who belongs in the outdoors and how people should behave. Oftentimes those things exclude Blackness, or Black people or Black culture,” Smith said. “With Black to the Land, we’re trying to make connections to our natural resources in our local community. But also exploring new ways that Black communities can interact with the natural environment.”

Smith came as a transfer student to Cal Poly Humboldt in 2013. He would pass by the farm everyday on his way to school. Eventually he scored an internship at the farm and had it for about 2 years.

He started Black to the Land because he wanted to facilitate the connection to the outdoors for students. Especially within a Black perspective and sharing Black culture in this form. 

“A lot of the time we will do storytelling,” Smith said. “Talking about our grandparents, who maybe came to California from the south and they were farmers. We like to dispel who belongs outdoors.”

The Bayside Park Farm is currently working on preparing the project of winter garden beds to plant kale, broccoli and swiss chard. Marlon Jones II, a first time volunteer at the farm, came to the event because of his love for food and community.

“What brings me here is a community rising up to better everything around them. The best way to learn anything is to do it with likeminded people and if everybody is under the same idea, they’re working to better the future,” Jones said. 

Dakari Tate, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt and student assistant at the Umoja Center, has been volunteering in the garden for the past year. Together, Tate and Smith helped organize the event. 

“We hope this is a recurring event. Even once I’m graduated and gone, kids will come in, take the space up, and care about it as much as we do,” Tate said. “One of the biggest things we want to accomplish here in this space is having a connection to nature and acknowledging the fact that many of our grown foods come from minority groups that are overlooked and we want to bring attention to that.”

In the past, Bayside Park Farm was owned by Cal Poly Humboldt, but in recent years it has been privately owned. However, the school is currently interested in leasing out the farmland for the Umoja Center. 

“That place is such a hidden gem in this community,” Smith said. “The food, the colors, and the vibrant people.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *