Communities Conservation Outdoors

Conservation: Las Flores Community Garden

Delia Jovel Dubon at Tierra Fértil. Photo by Alexla Perez-Sanchez courtesy of Conserving Carolina

By Emma Castleberry

Delia Jovel, founding member of the Tierra Fértil Coop, is spearheading another project in Henderson County in partnership with nonprofit Conserving Carolina. Located between Hendersonville and Mills River, Las Flores is an educational and recreational space that honors the Hispanic community. “This space will not only become a space to grow food but a space to grow inclusion, diversity, respect and equity,” says Jovel.

Delia Jovel. Photo by Alexia Perez Sanchez

The first phase of Las Flores is the construction of a community garden where Hispanic community members can spend time and learn about growing food. “Growing food has to become an essential skill, mainly in these times where fresh food prices are rising uncontrollably,” says Jovel. “Fresh food is not always accessible or affordable mainly for families who live in the poverty line. That is why growing food is a way to increase food access but also a way to heal the relationship that our community has with farming.”

Jovel says there are a multitude of reasons that growing food is important in general and specifically for the Immigrant community. “Farming is a practice that can heal by providing clean food, good energy, great relationships, respect to the environment, and also giving you a community,” she says. “Connecting with earth is also a way to find a sense of belonging, and when you are an Immigrant that is important. I will say as well that farming is a liberatory experience.”

Jovel’s belief in and connection to the natural world traces back to her childhood in El Salvador. Her father was a farmer, but eventually she and her family had to move from their rural town of Arcatao to the city of San Salvador because of the civil war. “Despite that, I always felt an enormous connection with the countryside, with nature, with that peace that trees and mountains bring to your life,” she says. “Because I myself have experienced peace, a sense of community and healing, I think some other Hispanic community members can find the same experience.”

Photo courtesy of Conserving Carolina

The vision for the ten-acre Las Flores plot, which is owned by Conserving Carolina, includes a pavilion, trails, bilingual signage, a play area and a pollinator garden in addition to community vegetable gardens. Workdays are held on Saturdays or Sundays once per month, and this summer the focus will be on improving and conditioning the space for the community garden. “We hope to grow some food, herbs and flowers, provide some gardening workshops in Spanish and create some amenities, like a shelter, a rain harvesting system and some picnic tables,” says Jovel.

Photo courtesy of Conserving Carolina

Tony Robles met Jovel through True Ridge, a Hendersonville nonprofit that works to empower and provide resources for the Hispanic and Immigrant community. Before volunteering at Las Flores, Robles “didn’t know a rake from a sponge,” he says. “For me, to be involved is to reclaim a part of me that was missing: a connection, a real connection to the earth and what better connection than to grow one’s own food. I have since started a small garden at home, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, cantaloupe and bitter melon. It is transformative and gives one the agency to initiate something healthful and positive.”

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