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Reclaiming Food Sovereignty Through Gardening

Meet Jat, community gardener, high school student, and food justice advocate.

Jat Martinez gardens at the Commons Community Garden at Confluence Park where he finds a way to reconnect with the natural cycles of the earth and reclaim food sovereignty. 

Jat, a junior in high school at the Denver School of the Arts, joined the community garden this summer after growing many plants indoors at home and wanting to take his green thumb to grow food, connect with the community, and begin his own food revolution. 

We caught up with Jat on a sunny fall afternoon at the Commons Community Garden to chat about his gardening journey.

Why did you decide to join a community garden? 

I love plants. At home, I have many decorative indoor plants and I have grown some other things like herbs on my balcony, but I wanted to try to grow food to understand what it takes and to connect more with nature.

Gardening gives me the opportunity to work with the circular cycle of the earth. I can put seeds or a plant in the soil in the spring, and see it grow and flourish in the summer, and now that the season is ending it is going back to the earth. It’s so beautiful!

Why is that so important to you? 

Because we have separated ourselves from nature so much that we don’t understand the cycles of the earth and how we are part of it. I mean, look at how our food is produced now and how the system is not working, at least not for everyone. The industrial food is not good for us, and many are going hungry. It [the food system] needs to change. 

Food is a right we are not getting. You see how many people struggle to get good food, and that’s not right. I find the homelessness crisis frustrating and the idea of giving food to others is a way to create a revolution. So being able to grow food that I can then share with others is great, it makes me feel connected with a cause.

How has this community garden helped you feel connected to the community? 

I love this community garden! Everyone is so nice and they share their gardening knowledge with me. When I started in May, I didn’t really know what to plant or how to work my plot, but everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. I like that this garden is an oasis in the middle of the city. I mean, if you ignore the buildings as you walk around this park and this garden it feels like you are in the forest. It makes me think of Princess Mononoke, you know the movie. 

What produce did you grow this summer? 

I grew brussel sprouts, which I had no idea how to harvest but they looked really cool. I also grew cabbages, onions, lots and lots of basil, marigolds, and tomatoes, a lot of tomatoes. My mom made some really great tomato sauce, because I don’t like raw tomatoes or tomatoes by themselves, but I like them in things, you know.

And now that the season is ending the plants are still filled with green tomatoes so I need to figure out how to use them.

Are you planning to return next season? 

Yes! I’ve learned so much this first season and I already have so many plans for my 8×4 plot for next year.

I want to try different produce, maybe some greens like bok choy or spinach. I really like spinach. It’s the one vegetable I can add to any meal. And maybe some flowers!

Grateful for a gardener in your life? When you make a gift in honor of a gardener you know–or in honor of all of DUG’s gardeners–you help provide spaces for Jat and others like him to grow cabbages and tomatoes while learning from other gardeners.

Donate by November 22 and your gift will be matched (up to a total of $10,000) by a generous donor who appreciates DUG’s critical work in food, climate, and community.