Tania Pulido, Richmond, California; project manager for Urban Tilth | Photo by Mitch Tobias
"When I was 18, a lot of my friends here in Richmond received money from Chevron. There was a settlement for an explosion that happened when we were little. People were so excited to get a check for $1,000, but they weren't thinking about environmental racism. I want kids asking why the Chevron factory is right next to the projects.
"I've been with Urban Tilth almost three years now. We have six small farms and gardens, and we help out with a few more. Our main goal is to get west Contra Costa County growing 5 percent of its food, but I consider what we do environmental justice.
"The Richmond Greenway, where we have our community garden, used to be an abandoned railroad track. We turned a polluted space into an educational space. Kids come in from all different schools. We teach photosynthesis, how to plant, what's in the soil. Then we ask questions like 'What's political about soil?' and 'What's political about air?'
"The Earth Island Institute gave me a Brower Youth Award, but it was really an award for the city. Richmond is usually just in the news for violence, so I want to use the award to bring more resources to the garden.
"I grew up around junk food. At school, our lunches were hamburgers and doughnuts, frozen food. The meat looked rotten. It's a low-income area, and I appreciate that the lunches are free, but for a lot of people it's their primary source of food.
"When they come to our garden, students taste and smell different things. If they like something, they can take it with them in a bag. They really like berries and mint and lemon balm, and they like to pick flowers for their mom or somebody else. Sometimes we harvest lettuce and make a big salad together.
"Our garden is open to anyone. Right now we have some collards sticking out over here and some onions sticking out over there. We have strawberry, pineapple guava, goumi berry, bogie berry, a new one called inca berry. It's delicious." --interview by Jake Abrahamson
Urban Tilth has transformed five acres of unused land in Richmond, California, into gardens. Its 2011 harvest yielded 7,000 pounds of produce, nearly half of which was given away.
ON THE WEB
For more information on Urban Tilth, go to urbantilth.org