Never have I seen so much commotion over a cucumber. When we discovered the first sizeable one lurking under the foliage, a howl went up and the women came running. This was at our most recent visit to the garden at the Greenbrier Birthing Center where pregnant women and new mothers have been taking great care of their garden.
Spending time there weeding, talking about babies, bugs, and good food in this little Eden, it is easy (for me) to forget for a moment that these women are inmates at this minimum security prison. They love their garden. They love the collards and lettuce and the promise of sweet potato baby food at the end of the summer. They love the sunflowers that are tall enough now to provide shade for snoozing babies.
Our volunteers love this garden and these women too. Several of our Grow Appalachia participants make periodic visits to help out here and it has turned in much more than a gardening project for them. “These women are our neighbors.” said one of our volunteers. She brought them a quart of organic red raspberries she had picked from a nearby farm. One garden volunteer has decided to lead weekly yoga classes there.
I don’t know much about what brought these women to such a place at such a time in their lives. I am afraid to ask them “What’s next?”
When I met with the director last winter about the possibility of putting in this garden, she told me that most of the women go on to finish their sentence at a normal prison once their babies are 18 months old. As a mother, it’s hard for me to think about that reality, so I focus on what is happening there now.
What’s happening there now is tiny pumpkins, green tomatoes, baby peppers, and one righteous cucumber; toddlers playing in the dirt, young mothers learning the difference between a “good” and a “bad” garden bug and tasting fresh basil for the first time.
What’s happening there now is Growing Big Change.