INDIANAPOLIS — From April until November, a group of community members spends time getting their hands dirty, growing food, while also growing a community.
"This is a spiritual exercise. This is something that uplifts the community," La'Kiyah Muhammad said.
Muhammad is the garden coordinator for Kheprw Institute's Growin' Good in the Hood program.
"We have growers here who were suffering from suicidal thoughts. I went through a divorce, and so being the garden coordinator actually helped me to get through that emotional trauma. We had a child here who lost her mother and her coming into the garden and helping out, actually helped her to be more emotionally stable too," Muhammad said.
The program, which started seven years ago, teaches participants how to grow food from seed to harvest.
"They put their own raised beds together, they fill it with soil, they put their own starters in or they put their own seeds in, and we just literally walk them through the process of how to maintain their produce and to get it all the way until harvest, Muhammad explained.
The entire program is offered at no cost to the growers at a lot on the north side.
Once they get their crops to harvest, they are able to take the food home to their families. Muhammad and assistant garden coordinator, Mystrie Davis, also provide guidance on how to cook the food they've grown.
"I've come to have a deep appreciation for growing food, self-sustainability, educating others to live a more self-sufficient life," Davis said. "For me, personally, it's really important to get out here and show this type of life for my son, to expose him to the community, to growing food, to nurturing this relationship with the earth."
All of the growers are selected after an application process, which begins in January. This year, about 25 families or groups are taking part.
April Doner is growing cucumbers, tomatoes and green peppers. It's something she's always wanted to learn how to do.
"I'm just not good at keeping things alive on my own," Doner said. "I show up on Wednesdays, I water, I do my part, and then I know the rest of the week everyone else is pulling in to take care of it."
As a single mom of a 4-year-old, Doner can't come every day but the garden leaders and other growers make sure each plot is taken care of.
Since starting Growin' Good in the Hood, building a sense of community has always been a big part of the program, but Muhammad believes the work they are doing is more critical now as families continue to feel the impact of food shortages and inflation.
"Since we are living right now in a food shortage, it is even more imperative that we teach people how to grow food so that they can sustain their families," Muhammad said.
If interested in becoming an Urban Farm Entrepreneur with Kheprw, visit this link to apply.