INDIANAPOLIS — At the Elephant Gardens, a community garden on the city's northeast side, four generations of family members are working together to make a positive impact and make sure their neighbors have good, healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
“Pun intended it was a very organic process, right? It wasn't intentional at first. We started in our backyard just growing food for ourselves,” said Vivian Muhammad, co-owner of The Elephant Gardens located at 3348 N. Sherman Dr. “I won't say we grow it all, but we grow a lot.”
On any given day, you can see three women and their family members harvesting, watering, growing and changing their community.
“It's a family affair and were it not for everyone participating, we could not pull this off,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad works with her mom, daughter, sons and grandchildren at the gardens.
Their east side neighborhood is a food desert.
“We really don't have much in a mile radius at all. Two-mile radius, three-mile radius, five-mile radius, we don't have a lot of access to nutrient-dense produce. Food desert is kind of a misnomer because there's food here, but it's just not the right food. It's not the most nutrient-dense food,” said Muhammad.
What started as a backyard garden for themselves has now turned into a community garden, a place their neighbors can come and purchase nutrient-dense produce.
“As the situation changed in our neighborhood, our mission kind of was shaped by the what was happening in our community,” said Muhammad.
They work with EBT and Fresh Bucks, allowing everyone in the area the chance to buy their fresh organic produce.
Muhammad said COVID-19 really highlighted the need for healthy foods because their community was hit hard by the virus.
“Why? Well, it hit hard because of the comorbidities, the things that we were already suffering from — the diabetes, the high blood pressure, the heart disease, the obesity,” Muhammad said. “All of these comorbidities existed long before COVID, and we already had a pandemic as far as diabetes was concerned.”
She said making a positive impact in the community she’s called home for decades makes all the hard work worth it.
“We’ve lived in this neighborhood since 1970, and so we've seen it go through a lot of changes,” Muhammad said. “We've seen grocery stores open and close. We've seen schools open and close. We've seen the neighborhood completely shift, and so being able to add a positive energy back into our own community, that's really the best reward that we could ask for.”
You can come buy their fresh produce four days a week on the east side at 3348 N Sherman Drive. They are open for market from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m.-noon Fridays.