A loose-knit group of community gardeners came together with one mission: to make fresh produce accessible in the Mobile community.
Mobile Urban Growers, or MUG, is a network of community gardeners and urban farmers committed to growing and maintaining gardens in and around Mobile while also teaching gardening programs.
“We just started meeting informally, sharing – ‘I’ve got some extra plants.’ ‘I’ve got some extra seeds.’ – and from there we started a network of sharing,” MUG board member Pat Hall said. “We connected with the Extension Service, a great resource, and that’s how I met Carol who was in the Master Gardener Program.”
Mobile has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the U.S., and more than 25% of Mobilians live in a food desert, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, without access to fresh fruits or vegetables.
MUG works to combat this hardship by providing tools and support for local gardeners and by making fresh produce available for free to the community, such as at Taylor Park.
Unlike most community gardens, they have added wellness programs to help teach life skills and therapeutic horticulture.
MUG board member Carol Dorsey likes to refer to the word “biophilia” when describing their work.
“Biophilia, it means to tap into an innate love of outdoors and nature that we all have,” Dorsey said. “That was a word that was appropriated by E.O. Wilson, who was the biologist and naturalist that discovered fire ants in Mobile while he was a kid.”
MUG’s method is to show, do and teach.
“We teach by showing them, and obviously a big part of it is healthy eating,” Hall said.
One of the 20 community gardens that is a part of MUG’s network is at Strickland Youth Center.
Dorsey travels to Strickland twice a week to work with the kids, helping them practice mindfulness and transfer anxiousness into growing a garden.
Strickland’s gardening program doesn’t ignore the past crimes committed by young gardeners, but like gardening itself, it’s more focused on cultivation, for a better outcome.
“We talk about if you sow good seeds now, in time you will reap something positive,” Brenes said.
A symbolic vegetable that is popping up throughout Strickland’s garden is luffa, even growing where they weren’t originally planted. Dorsey and Brenes encourage the youths to “grow like a luffa.”
“We like to educate the kids that it just takes one seed, or one good choice at the right time,” Brenes said.
Learn more about how to support Mobile Urban Growers through volunteer efforts and donations at mobileurbangrowers.org.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)