BEARFRUIT & GROW; Louisville, KY
LeTicia Marshall, Owner and Educator
Words by LeTicia Marshall
Photos from LeTicia Marshall
Documented in Fall 2020
Bearfruit & Grow, LLC was created to encourage, empower, educate, and participate in your vegetable garden journey! We farm vegetable and herb plants and offer coaching services for anyone who wants to grow a vegetable garden in any space.
LeTicia Marshall founded Bearfruit & Grow in 2018 and runs an urban farm, a Youtube gardening channel, and offers garden coaching services. She has a masters degree in Social Work from the University of Louisville and currently spends her time as a full-time mom and farmer.
Bearfruit gardening is the community page on Facebook and my YouTube channel. And the YouTube channel is like “Hey, this is what I’m doing in my garden. These are my experiences, so this is what I do. But I’m totally open to learning from other people, so ya’ll help me out because I don't know what the heck I’m doing sometimes.” So, it could go either way, you know. Responding to other people because, you know, I have a lot of people who have been very very generous, so they’ll send me gifts in the mail and so I might record some of those and post them just so, you know, they can see that I got it, and, you know, that’s kind of what the youtube page is for.
Facebook is more like tips and tricks and hacks that I learned, or that I found or came across and I repost. Or, you know, wanting to see other people’s gardens, a chance for people to ask questions, I do some live videos about things that are just going on in the garden that people have asked about. So, like one time in like one week I got probably 10 questions about squash bugs and I was like, “Ugh!” because they are the- they are just horrible, right? I mean, they don’t just attack your squash, they attack your watermelons, they attack tomatoes, they’re everywhere! Even your lettuces! They’re hanging out on the lettuce, I’m like, “Why? There’s nothing here for you! Go away!” And they’re so hard to get rid of because they're like little super insects or something. They’re immune to everything! And I use mostly organic methods, so I try not to use-- and I have nothing against people who do it, I just don’t do it-- you know, products like Roundup, or Seven, or those type of things. So it’s kinda difficult. If you don’t squash it with your foot, you may not ever get rid of ‘em! And they overwinter in the ground! So anyway, I did a lot of videos showing people that I actually had an infestation of squash bugs. And every day! Every day I would go out there and check the undersides of these leaves for these squash bugs. And I just- one day- one day I did not, and BOOM! There was little baby squash bugs everywhere. And they’re very soft-bodied when they’re young, so it’s not hard to kill them, but getting the adults so they don’t keep laying eggs, you know. But anyway, I went live to show everybody that I have the same problem. This is how I deal with it, but to be honest, I’m not good at pest control sometimes. It’s just the pressure is so much, that sometimes you just feel like throwing your hands up, right? And so I’m trying to normalize a lot of this stuff, too. Like, this happens in a lot of people’s gardens and it’s okay. It’s okay! Don’t freak out!
Normalizing is huge for me because I feel like the world always tries to tell us that you have to be a certain way. Do things a certain way. There’s just so much pressure to live life! You know? To live! And not a whole lot of people try to live for and think for themselves. We are so influenced by everybody else and everything else.
And so the garden, I think, is just a space where I can be like, “You know what? Ya’ll can think, feel, look anyway you want to when you’re in the garden. Talk anyway you want to. Just be you! And if you don’t know how to do that, well, welcome to the journey. Because I feel like the garden will help you with that process- if you allow it to.”
It’s true. It’s so true, and I just feel like the garden can also deal with a lot of your- if you allow it to- mental health issues. And some people walk around here like “I’m okay, I’m cool. I don’t have nothing going on. I have a great life-” well, you’re lying. Because, there’s something, right?
One thing for me is anxiety. All my life, I can remember as a child dealing with it, trying to manage it, figure out different ways to manage it, but mostly suppressing it- cause we’re good at that. We’re good at, “You’re supposed to smile and act like everything’s okay and look like everything is okay,” right? Because you don’t want people knowing your business, and they shouldn’t, because it’s your business. I mean I was told that a lot as a child. But, into adulthood, you just feel like you can do and say things sometimes like you wear the big pants and things start to come out. But the garden has helped me with that as well.
And to be honest, I haven’t been in the garden that much here lately since the fall season’s rolled around- I’m still growing stuff- but I’ve really felt a lot of anxiety lately and I’m like “Oh! I haven’t been in the garden!” Like, that’s how I dealt with it. Or one of the ways I’ve managed it. And so I can definitely tell a difference. But, you know, I just feel like the garden, your farm, whatever- this space that you’ve created- can be just about anything you want it to be. And people can feel that. People know when you are being genuine. They know when you are excited. They know when you are pumped up about something. They understand that this thing is way bigger than you anyway. I feel like it is a very spiritual encounter- the garden. And that can mean a lot of different things for people. But I feel like if you just allow that process to happen- and it’s not going to feel good all the time, either. There’s been a many of times when I’m just like “Ugghh gosh!” like, “why is this coming out right now as I’m digging this hole for this tomato plant?! I don’t understand what is happening,” you, know? I’m not mad at the tomato! Or the squash bug! I’m mad at myself! Because I let myself go there. Or I let that person get to me. Or, sometimes I come to the garden really sad. The garden reminds me of my grandfather a lot. And actually, I feel like I feel him there all the time. So sometimes, I’m just sad in the garden. But, I feel like, again, you create this space where you can just be that- and without judgement! Who’s going to judge you? The bug? The plant? I mean, the okra? What are they gonna say?
My grandfather passed away right after I had my daughter and she’ll be 5 in December. And he was a farmer. My grandparents, my mother’s parents, were farmers and they farmed mostly tobacco- you know, back in the day that was the big thing to do. They had cattle, as well. They tried all the hogs and the goats and all that, too, but mostly tobacco. And then they had like a quarter of an acre vegetable garden, as well, and they owned a grocery store. The only black-owned grocery store in the area. Growing up, you don’t think about any of this being like, really cool and significant, right, because you were just told to do chores, “Take the slop bucket! Take it on out there!” And I’m like “Ugh!” Nobody wants to carry a bucket full of, you know, nastiness with maggots coming out of it, right, but we had to carry it to the pigs so they could eat. It was horrible sometimes! I rode the setter most of the time, for, you know, when we set the tobacco plants and stuff. And, you know, it was like days and days of hot sun just beating down on you. But my grandfather was always just so cool, like he just did it, right? He just did the work, and then went in, ate, and came out and did it again. And every day, I mean it was the same thing every day, I never heard that man complain, never gripe about anything- Well, actually, when he did have something to say, you better watch out. You, know? He’s that kinda guy. He was so quiet and just so calm and he just took it all in and he would just smile and that was it. You didn’t really hear much out of him, you know? And that brings something- breathing right now- it just does something to me to remember him that way. Because I want to be that way. Everything he did I want to do! I didn't think I’d want to farm. Let me take that back, because again- we out in the sun, squatting behind a tree to pee, you know, eating these big ol’ thick baloney sandwiches for lunch--- you, know, it wasn’t ideal for a child. Now, they didn’t work us to death, let me just say, like, they didn’t, you know--- But, honey, when we were at our grandparents, we knew we were gonna work. We knew we had to go because both my parents had to work. We knew we had to work when we got there. But that’s okay. I’m glad. I actually now, as an adult, wish they had taught us more about the business side, you know, of things. But we just did the chores. We wiped down the tables, cleaned the dishes at the store. My grandmother cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner at this little country store. So they had groceries along the wall and these Coca-Cola coolers, you, know, to hold the cokes and stuff. And they had 7 little tables with chairs around them and she would cook and most people would just come just to eat. They would buy groceries here and there, but they came, and it was like the thing…. It was everybody! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, and I’m like, “ya’ll spend so much money eatin’!” but they loved it, that’s what they did. And they would come in smelling all kinds of ways. That was one thing I will never forget- the smell- honey! I’m like, “Did you all roll in cow manure?! Did ya’ll just have a party in it? Cause it is--- ya’ll stink!” It was so bad. It was so bad. But man, they respected my grandfather. They respected my grandmother. And they paid to eat their food! And, again, you know, it was predominantly white area, and they were successful as far as I can tell. They owned their land, we still own the land, that land is still in the family, there’s sixty-plus acres. But, all of that I didn’t understand as a child. Now I understand how important it is to have landownership and to learn these skills. It’s not just about growing food. And I’m not minimizing growing food at all, but it’s about survival. It’s about being self-sufficient- sustainability- learning to give back because we take so much anyway, you know? So how can we give back to the soil? How can we give back to these animals? What can we do to protect them the best we can and take care of them? If it’s just picking up a styrofoam cup off the road, then just pick up the styrofoam cup, ya know what I’m sayin’? You ain’t got to stand out there and watch for people that’s illegally hunting, you ain’t got to do all that, ya know. Just pick up the cup! Ya know? I don’t know, I feel like things have become just a little more simpler in my mind, too. It’s doesn’t have to be the big complex thing, like, why can’t we just do the right thing? So, if you see a cup, that is trash, who cares who did it, you know, just pick it up and put it in the trash where it’s supposed to go. Or recycle!
But he kind of modeled all of this for me without me even knowing it. And my grandmother is still alive, and she is not in good health, but she just keeps going. Like, I have never seen, man, I’ve never seen such a fighter. And she’s willing! She’s willing to keep going, like, she wants to. It doesn’t matter what’s trying to take her out, she, I mean, she just recently bought six goats, or seven goats, somethin like that, and eight calves--- why? Why do you need that? Real talk, real talk: She is draggin’ around an oxygen tank, she can barely take care of herself, she just bought a go-cart, and we didn’t tell her about this go-cart cause she’s still tryin’ to drive and she shouldn’t be drivin’, but she done bought a go-cart. She’s like, “I’m gonna take care of my babies”- that’s what she calls ‘em. She’s got twenty-four, twenty-five, like, full grown cows in pasture still that she needs to get rid of. I mean, you can’t do-- why are you trying to drag hay, why?! You can’t do all of this- Tell her she can’t again! Know what I’m sayin’? She really - she doesn’t believe that- she doesn’t believe that she can’t. And I’m just like, “man!” So if she can fix herself up to keep going like this, why can’t I, you know, deal with the little bit of craziness I got and no matter what happens, just keep going?
I didn’t get the farm, right? You know I was pursuing the farm. 10 acres-- 10 acres!-- in urban Louisville. Right smack, not in the middle, but, you know, it’s unheard of in this city. Um, and, I think metro area there may be some bigger farms, but not in the city. And this is South Louisville, 10 acre farm, and I just said “Gosh, I’m not doing anything else! And I want to be on a farm.” That’s my end goal, right? To own a home that sits on, um--- It went from 80 acres to 40, and then it went to 20 and then to 10, and then it went to 5. Because what I found out, too, was, I don’t have to have a whole big heap of land to farm on. And that’s the significance of the urban farming concept, too. Um, and you don’t have to be an urban farmer to farm on five acres, right? But, I love the city, I love to be in the city. I grew up in the country all my life. Um, I do miss the country and I’m not sayin’ I’ll never go back, I just don’t feel like that’s in my near future. But urban farming is where my heart is. Rural America has its own things, its own battles, its own burdens, it’s own hurdles. But urban farming, I feel like, has spoke to me even more cause of all the craziness going on with injustice-- food injustice-- in our city, and across the world! I mean, I did not realize! I mean, I knew there was a lot goin’ on, but- I just- the whole world? Like the globe is protesting food insecurity, and injustice period?! Like, this is crazy! And so, I’m not a native of Louisville, so I kinda felt I was always on the line about how much ownership I want to take to try to help, or not to help, because people are real funny about, you know, like “you’re not even from Louisville,” you know, “why do you care?” And I’m like, “What?!” I had never heard that language before. You know, why does it matter that I’m not from Louisville? I just care, and I feel like the right thing to do is the right thing to do. And so that’s kind where I arrived. Two years ago I had made up my mind that I’m not gonna listen to those voices anymore. And there’s a lot more into that, but we won’t get into that. But I’m just not gonna listen to the people, and things, um, that completely just try to discourage the movement, the journey. Your personal growth, your personal discovery journey- all of that, I feel like wraps up into this. So, I’m just gonna move on and see what I can do.
So 2 years later, July 2020, I decided to file the LLC. And of course it took me 2 years, right? I was still going back and fourth, but this year I was like, “Okay, that’s enough.” So what can I do? What can I do? Um, I don’t have a lot of money, I don’t have a lot of resources, but there’s somethin’ I can do and I own this little .22, uh, sorta own it, the bank owns it, but ya know what I’m sayin’! I’m working on owning it! But, I bought this house with the help of the mortgage lender, and the yard is full of grass that we can’t eat. So what can I do to utilize this space? Um, and so that journey started 5 years ago when I started my first garden on this property. And so from then on, up until now, I decided that I wanted to farm.
And so, what to farm, how to farm, is completely up to you. And there are a thousand other resources out there that you can- I, I’ve looked at everything on the internet. When I tell you I’m a youtube fanatic, I really love youtube, not just because I’m a YouTuber, that took me a long time to get myself together to do that because I was scared of what other people were gonna think, you know? But then I was like, “Oh, God, who cares?!” you know? There are other people in the world having the same experiences that I am, or have not and I want them to learn from my mistakes. I’m not ever going to tell somebody that I know everything and that I do everything right. That’s not me. But, honey, I have made a mistake a time or two, and let me tell you what happened. That’s what I’m down for, you know?
So, I’m gonna try to grow, I can grow, I haven’t really decided what I want to focus on growing. I think that is still up in the air because I”m trying to connect to some groups in the city. Recently, there’s been a lot of movement in the West End of our city to bring in food resources because the main grocery stores have been closed, or closed for no reason and they’re reopen again. And there’s just a lot of craziness. So people are rising up- the community is rising up and tryin’ to deal with it themselves. Like, “what can we do to make sure that people here don’t go hungry ever again?”
So, Parkland community grocery just opened in the West End in the Parkland neighborhood. Black market KY is on its way to opening. Louisville Community grocery, I think that is what it’s called- they are working on finding a location, and it’s a coop type grocery. So all these people are trying to work together. Feed the West and Feed Louisville are working to address food injustice. Change today change tomorrow is another organization. Ag in the City is in the West End, also trying to address food insecurity. 5th Element Farms aka Apocalyptic Acres, they are located in the West End. This group actually took vacant lots- purchased the vacant lots- and turned them into gardens! And they’re working on expansion right now off of 26th Street and it is incredible how much they’ve done. But they have those lots and plan to farm those in the spring. They’re just prepping it- laying wood chips, cardboard everywhere, getting all the water catchment systems.
So I’ve been a part of those journeys and got to see that work and be a part of that process as well, so that’s been very fulfilling. Not just worried about what I’m gonna do, but being a part of this system, this network, I think is what is important. We’re all trying to work together some way, form or fashion. One thing that is missing though, is that everybody doesn’t know who everybody is, so I’m trying to do that for us. And I’m not saying “you have to work together.” I just want you to know that there’s another black grower here, right down the street from you, and you didn't know that, so I’m telling you now. SO how can ya’ll maybe work together? Or not. Doesn’t matter.
There’s been a lot of talk about a farmers coop. So instead of everybody trying to grow everything, you know, this farm grows two crops, that farm grows two crops and then we come together maybe provide that produce to this one grocery store in the West End. There’s so many things Bearfruit and Grow is trying to be a part of and do, and I’m totally excited about it, and open to ideas. Open to having conversation about it. And creating the table, too, cause I feel like right now, I’m okay going to everybody else’s table because I’m trying to understand the network that’s already out here. The Urban Ag Coalition has been incredibly helpful to me. Specifically the Louisville Soil and Water Conservation has been tremendously supportive, and I’m just very grateful for them. So Bearfruit and Grow is just part of the network. I want to work with everyone as much as I can- doesn’t mean I’m gonna. I’ve figured that out, too. Sometimes you just can’t work with everyone, you know? But, I’m down to listen and, you know, you just have to kinda discern what you do. But, I think what the bottom line is, though, most people are tryin to do the same thing. Most people are sick and tired of the same conversation and this same scenario of people being without food, or the injustice in food systems- or systems, period- that is supposed to support human beings regardless of the way they look or where they come from, and people are sick and tired.
It’s been actually pretty cool- like, in my lifetime- to witness something like this! I never thought that- I dunno, it’s just never been on my mind- that I would never see such a movement. But it is real. And it is happening, like, everywhere, globally, so it’s kinda dope.
I just want to give what I can. And, I mean, you know, I grow every year, and I always have an abundance of stuff and I don’t even know what to do with it. I’m tryin to learn how to can, but that takes time and a lot of effort as well. And after that, like, I couldn’t even give all this okra away that I grew. I couldn’t give tomatoes! Cherry tomatoes! And people really like cherry tomatoes and I just had so many! And I was very grateful, I mean, but I was like “Man! What am I gonna do?”
Donating is one thing, but if we can create a system where people are expecting, you know, they know that if I go to Bear Fruit and Grow I can get x, y, and z, and then I can go here and get that, too, you know, I know that I can get food. And not only do I want you to come to me to get food, I want you to come to me to learn how to grow your own. And that’s one big movement I would love to see. In my area of the city, there are no community gardens, we’re surrounded by them, but in my area, there’s nothin’ like it.
How dope would it be to at least see a whole block with a four by four garden in their front yard?! Where they’re growing food, ya know? That would be so dope!
Vision for Bearfruit and Grow, Louisville, the World
Really, the coaching aspect is very important to me. Like I said, I don’t know everything, but more people are open than not, especially now.
Gosh, if all you have is a 5-gallon bucket, let’s talk about what you can grow in that 5-gallon bucket in the spring and summer, if that’s all you want to do, ya know? I want to teach people and I’m willing to do that. And because of COVID, I’m very particular about being around a lot of people, obviously, we all want to stay healthy and safe, but virtual meetings work! They can flip their camera around and show me their gardens, or what that bug is, or what is this on their leaf, ya know? It just works. Once I start to get out there, more about the coaching aspect, I feel like it will catch on. I do want to make it as affordable as I can for everyone, but you gotta start somewhere. If you’re gonna be a business, you gotta kinda, ya know, you gotta make money! But I feel like more than anything, I just want people to learn. And I’m down for that.
There’s a golf course in my area that is, I think, about 17 acres. I didn’t feel like it looked that big, but you know, it might be. It’s not even a functioning golf course anymore, um, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it flooded, so I’m thinkin’, hmm. It’s like right down the street from me- how cool would it be?! Maybe I don’t need a house on that property! But how cool would it be to maybe take an acre or 2 or 5 and turn it into a farm? And a community farm?! Why can’t we make a community farm? Why does it have to be a community garden? I don’t know- just all these things in my head. The city, I do believe, owns it right now. I have called about that, developing conversations about that. I have yet to be to a city council meeting, so that’s my next step. But, just to see! There’s not a lot of vacant properties in my area, but that piece of land is just sitting there! I think they allow, like, youth sports to practice on that field and that kinda thing, but do you need 17 acres or 9 acres to do that? I don’t know. How cool would it be to have 3 or 4 high tunnels? It would be so dope! And so many people working in their spaces to grow food together. We’re all learning together. Has that community garden feel, right? But that would be so dope, and it would be the first ever in this area! It’s a lot of work to establish a community garden. I’m still trying to learn that whole concept, so I’m aware that it can’t just be me. But, it would be so neat to see if we can make that happen. That’s the only vacant property that I found in this area. Other areas may be vacant, but they’re small or flood zones, so you wouldn’t want to set your farm in a flood zone. But anyway, I would love to help our area establish a community garden or community farm space, so maybe I wouldn’t have to move and find a whole different property. I’m down for that though. I don’t care.
The Gagel Farm property we pursued had a dwelling on it. It was a pretty old house that was livable. But the price was so high because there were so many amenities. I mean, they had like 20 greenhouses, okay? 20! It was crazy! A barn, there was an aquifer well which was really cool because the aquifer watered the 4 acres of field crop space that they had, so that was kinda cool. I’m learning number 1, when somebody builds an infrastructure like that, you hate to see it just be mauled down by bulldozers, right? And that was part of the fight. And that was the largest active farm green space that we know of in the city, too, so that was kind of the fight. But the amount of time- we just didn’t have enough time to win that battle, but I would love to create other spaces like that. So we have to start small. And it’s just like, can I get these ten neighbors to grow a garden in their front yard? That’s cool, I can deal with that. I just want people to grow and learn how to grow. But if we can go big, that’s good too. I’m down for either one.
Struggles and lessons learned:
I’m just going to be honest and truthful. There’s no other way to… okay? I’m an African American female in the United States of America. And historically for black people, and I’m not negating any other person of color or group, I’m just talking about me because that’s who I am. Historically, there have always been systematic injustices when it comes to funding resources so that black farmers can either keep their land, keep their farms afloat, you know, all that kind of thing. Land has been stolen from black farmers more in the South than anywhere else. There are concepts we don’t understand, but we know now that if you don’t have anything in writing, you’re pretty much screwed. Handshakes used to mean something, but legally, it doesn’t matter. And one thing I’ve discovered is that my family still has the land, and thank God if they’re able to keep their land. But a lot of black families around them did not and were not. And Kentucky is considered the South, but I’m talkin’ the deep south, I mean they went through, right? Black American’s in this country own less than 2% of the market share and farmland. So even in the state of Kentucky, it’s way less than that. So with that being said, and then female black farmers- who does that, right? It took me a while to process this because people would ask me “Why the heck would you want to farm and you are black in America? Why would you want to do that? Who does that? Do you not understand what our people went through?” Yes I do. I am completely aware. But I’m also very very proud of our journey and our story. Because my grandparents and great grandparents were farmers. And my great-great-family were sharecroppers. I just feel differently. I’m not ashamed. I think there was a point where I didn’t understand it and wasn’t sure if I wanted to embrace it. But now more than ever, I do. And I welcome that conversation when people ask those questions. This is no longer about 40 acres and a mule. It’s just about respect and doing the right thing again. The system doesn’t owe us anything- dare I say that? No one in this life owes you anything. But I feel like if I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, and I have worked hard, and you’re telling me out of your mouth that if I do x, y, and z, that this is what is supposed to happen, and it is in writing and I followed the rules, then I should be able to get what I need to do what I gotta do. And then once I get it, just leave me alone and let me do what I gotta do. Why do you have to monitor so much? And that’s another thing about all of these “socially disadvantaged funding resources.” I haven’t made up my mind about that, like, you offer these funding resources for “socially disadvantaged groups” so: people of color, women- and you’re even specific!- ingenious, native, black people. BUT on your website, you kindly leave out the part where, even if you’re a beginning farmer, and to me a beginning farmer is a beginning farmer, right? I should be considered a beginning farmer. But to you, that doesn’t mean your first year. To you that means you have to be farming for 3 years or more. Or 3-10 because you’re considered a beginning farmer up to 10 years. But I need 3 years of Schedule F’s to get this funding for my farm. But the title of this specific grant is called beginner farmers fund. I don’t understand that. “So we want to help you all” but don’t tell us everything. Set us up to have hope that we’re really going to get this support and we don’t get anything at the end of the day because “Oh! There’s just one other thing you have to meet.” Almost always it’s still not enough for us to follow the rules to meet the guidelines, the criteria. There’s always one more thing. And so I got to experience that.
Now, that experience is not new to me as a black person in this country. It just isn’t. And as a woman in this country. I’m just saying, in relating it to farming and being able to access resources, it’s like “Man! It just never stops!” There’s always something that you don’t have or you don’t meet or you don’t- ya know- but ya’ll swear ya’ll trying to help us. I’m still trying to wrap my head about how I feel, but it just feels like the same tune. And it’s unfortunate. And it’s very discouraging. If you don’t have money to start your farm, your first resource should be talking to friends and family. If they can’t help you, nobody wants to take out a big loan. Nobody wants to do that for real. But, really, that’s the only way some of these farmers can survive. And you keep denying them that every single year? They can’t make a living. They don’t make money. They don’t feed their families. They die. And everything around them dies. And you’re responsible for that and have been responsible for that for how many years? How many decades? How many centuries? And you still do it! That is amazing to me. That’s incredible. Not in a good way.
So what can we do to do the right thing? You have groups like the Urban Ag Coalition that is really trying- and I’m just thinking of groups in my area. There are some other national groups that are tryin’ to do the same. But people are tired of the systematic stuff. I’ve talked to a group of Black growers and farmers here in the city that want to start their own fund to help people pay for access to land. Because, honey, it is a lot of white people who own the properties here in the city- I’m just going to put it out there. There’s a lot of people, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just sayin’, but they always want you to lease from them. And so that conversation about leasing versus land ownership, too. It makes me cringe when you offer to me to lease your land. That feels too familiar. Even though I understand that there are pros to that. You may not be in the city very long, or the area very long, so you just want a space too, ya know. Or maybe you are trying it for the first time. And so if you buy the land, ya locked down, right? If you lease it, you have the option to kinda move. I get all that! But I think for some people that have made up their minds about land ownership, don’t throw that in their face- leasing- don’t do that. And then if you don’t know how to help them, don’t say that you do. Because that’s another slap in the face. That’s familiar and we ain’t got time for that, ya know. So, I would prefer for you to just say “You know what, I don’t know.” I respect you. Thank you so much for saying that. And let’s figure out who does and if they don’t then we got a policy issue. Or something we can pursue now because nobody knows what to do so we’re gonna figure it out like we always have. Yeah, i just feel like land ownership is definitely important.
Seeing people getting knocked down and get up again over and over and over- that is so inspiring to me. Because how many times have you just given up? You know? It’s like, and I’ve done it like a thousand times. And I used to feel really bad and guilty about it but I’m like “Gosh! That’s just where I was.” I wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t believe in myself, for real, I didn’t! I didn’t have confidence in myself. And that’s the result. My mindset was totally different. Now I feel like the battle is just consistency. I feel like that’s been my biggest hurdle, just being consistent in life about a lot of things. Like, can I just consistently water the garden? Cause I hand water, right, and that’s the hardest way to water. Especially if you have a big space. You know, we haven’t had rain in a month? OVer a month? Maybe longer. And so, still having to water when all you want to do is sit down and rest and it takes an hour to water the garden by hand. So I risk killing crops because of my laziness.
Anyway, just seeing people keep fighting for what they believe in, I love that. I don’t know, I’m in this point in my life where I just want to prove something to myself. I feel like for a long time I just did it for everybody else, or I’m expected to do it. I’m not even the oldest in my family, you know? I have a twin sister, she’s the oldest- by ten minutes, but she’s still the oldest! And I went to college and I went to grad school and got these degrees and now I’m farming. I’m not even working. And that’s the other thing, it’s like, really? That’s the path? After seven years of school- I went seven years straight, I didn’t stop! It was crazy. I was crazy. Seven years straight. My undergrad was in psychology, and my masters was in social work from Kent School at U of L. Worked in the field for 4 years. Became a stay at home mom, who has a garden. I do some other things on the side, but, like, who would have thunk it?
Why would you deny somebody food? Why would you do that? You know, and I am a person of faith and I believe that you should do the right thing. But it’s time now for ya’ll to stop praying so much for people. Now listen to me when I say this, I’m not saying don’t pray. Because I just told you I was a person of faith. Prayer is very important, but if you know that you have and you don’t give, shame on you. “I pray that you can find some money to get some food,” and you got a whole loaf of bread or you got more than you need, and you don’t give, shame on you.
I don’t care who you are, what you look like. This ain’t a black issue, this ain’t a white issue- everybody. Now we know that there are certain groups that experience food injustice more than others. I get that. But if you walk down the street and you don’t look like me and I don’t give you somethin’ cause you don’t look like me, shame on you, when I know I could have helped you. All I asked for was a bottle of water. All you asked was “are those tomatoes?” and I say “yes,” knowin’ that you look like you hungry. You might even tell me you’re hungry- cause I don’t like to assume sometimes- but you just told me that you were hungry and I got 20,000 cherry tomatoes on the vine and I offer you none? Are you kiddin’ me? He is not pleased with that. This is bigger than you and me. This is bigger than you and me. And I just want to be part of somethin’ big. I think a lot of people do. And my role is not going to be yours. Or vice versa. And that’s okay. THat’s okay. Just do something about it. And I think that was where I was just tired of blowin’, sighin’, cryin’- cause I’m a crier! I cry about everything. I’m a big empath, so I can’t help it when I walk past you and I just feel this energy, it brings me to tears, and I know it’s because you are hungry or you don’t have what you need right now. That might be one reason. And I’m done just crying about it, ya know? So if I have a few extra hundred tomatoes left from this season, or every week, then I need to figure out where to put those so people can get them and they don’t go bad. I’m tired of these little corner stores that are getting healthy food but it’s already spoiled when it gets to them. I’m tired of that. We can do better than that. You know? Figure out how to do it. Just figure it out. And that is working together with people who don’t look like you sometimes. I get the Black Lives Matter movement- I get it, and I’m not just calling them out, I’m just using it as an example. Like I get it. But, good grief! Ya’ll not even working together! Ah! I ain’t never in my entire life! You know, there’s just people in the world that are just tryin’ to one-up eachother. And why do we have to do that? Why? Because you have made this about you. You have made this about you. And it ain’t about you. If they don’t look like me, but they know a lot that I don’t, I probably should pay attention. Because being stubborn, like a mule, is not gonna get it done. You know what they do to stubborn mules, don’t you? I’m just sayin’! You know! And we bring it on ourselves! But we want to blame it on other people. “No, you were stubborn, and they gave you, what, two to three days to get your act together and you didn’t get your act together. So guess what happens to stubborn mules.”
I’m not making light of this, but I’m not a treehugger, okay? I’m not. But what I’ve learned is you better respect what you have been given. All of this does not have to exist. And it’s changing. People don’t want to talk about that either, though. It’s changing and it’s our fault. Own it and try to do something. If composting is gonna help, guess what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna try to compost. If picking up a styrofoam cup off the side of the road is gonna help, I’m gonna try to pick up as many as possible. My problem is I wanna say something to the person who threw it down when I see it! Like “I saw you- really? You just rolled down your window and threw it outta the car. Like, I wanna jack you right now because you threw a styrofoam cup out the window!” Whew! It burns me up seeing people do that. But we can learn! We can learn a lot from a lot of things. We’re not still enough and I was praying, I was like “Lord, is that what you’re doing right now? Tryin’ to make us be still and silent so we can see and hear? I just want to do the right thing, and not be scared, and try to be less lazy and do what I can. What I can. Cause what you do, it may be a little different, it might be more, but I feel like I want to give the best that I have- my best. And that’s another thing I’ve been workin’ on. Cause it’s easy to compare yourself to other people. People compare gardens all the time! On youtube, I hear it all the time! Like, I’m like, “Shut up! That’s not your garden!” And I do it to myself! I’m like “Ah, god, look at that. I wish I had-” Girl, chill out. Stop it. And be proud. My garden might not look like a magazine, and it won’t ever, okay? That’s me! Yours might look great! I have a lot of people who I’ve coached so far that, they’re like “LeTicia, what should I do?” So I’m like, you know, “We’re going to do a sun diary! We’re going to watch the sun!” And, you know, all those thing’s I’m supposed to say, because it’s the truth! You gotta see how much sunlight you’re going to get and all this stuff. “So, what am I going to grow in? Like, I really just want to do, like, a container garden, maybe a raised bed garden-” “Great!” Then they’re like “I don’t know, I don’t know…” and the next thing I know they’re like “I want to show you a thing from my garden!” And I’m like, “great!” And I’m looking like “Who? Who did all of this?! It does not look like a container! This looks like you just got this garden out of a magazine. Who did this? You did it?” And these are beginning gardeners! I’ve been gardening for five- six years as an adult! Whoa! My garden never looked like that! Like, how did you do that? I’m learning from them! Ya know? But it’s like- I can’t- and there’s the confidence thing and all these other things that your brain tries to tell you, right? “You tryin’ to coach people, but you growing out of buckets and totes and your garden looks like a hot mess, you got all this cardboard in your front yard,” and you know, it’s like “Stop it, stop it!” I don’t look like them either! I don’t have their money, I don’t have their house, I don’t have their car. What else I don’t have- I don’t have their shirt- you know, it’s like, “Quit! Quit comparing yourself!” Just own it! I mean, again, we’ve all had those experiences where you’re just supposed to be a certain way, you know. You talk too much, you’re not supposed to do that. If you’re a child, you’re not supposed to talk. If you’re new to the group, you’re not supposed to say much, you’re supposed to listen. And I’m like, “Bump that! For what?” Especially when we’re all just sitting around looking at each other anyway. I don’t get it! If you got something to give, even if it’s just in that thirty seconds, give it! Life is too short! Life is too short. And I feel like if you got it to give, then give it.
And giving to yourself too, I feel like the garden- you giving to yourself. You investin’ in yourself when you have a garden. If all you have is a 5-gallon bucket and some bulbs, then cool. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You garden and grow the most beautiful tomatoes in those 5-gallon buckets that you- I don’t care! I don’t. It’s your garden!
I have not had one bad experience on those calls. And it’s different people every single time, you know, and it’s something I enjoy about those calls and the Urban Ag Coalition, as well. Just different perspectives. Different people. Everybody’s coming to the table with something. And it’s not about one-upping yourself. It’s not about overpowering something, or being so different that you’re not. Just be you. Just be who you are. And if you’re not that person and you can’t do it, then tell me. I’m okay with it. I’m okay. I just feel so much more free since I started the journey of self discovery and just owning who I am. And that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change some stuff. I mean, I’m not saying you can’t get better and become a better version of yourself, or whatever language you want to use, but, like, just start with “Yep. I garden and I don’t eat nothin’ out of my garden.” Own that! Like “I grow this food, but I give it all away, I don’t eat nothin’! Girl, cause all them bugs, I can’t handle it, but I’ll give it to somebody else who wants it!” If that’s who you are, just own it! That’s okay!
My husband loves the idea that I have a garden, but there are some things out of the garden that just he won’t eat! Because after he went out there and harvested for the first time ever in his life, and he saw those worms on the lettuce, it freaked him out. He wasn’t scared to take the worms off, he was just like “Oh my gosh! This is what’s eating and on the lettuce before I get it? Uh uh.” And I said, “Well, baby, that’s what’s happening at the store! Like, they just wash it! They say they wash it three times and they throw a little chemical on it.” He’s like “Mm mm, I’ll take the store.” I’m like, “Quit it!” you know? So I try to just not talk about it, but it’s what happens when you garden organically, you know? And more so than not, I catch him all the time going out there and harvesting herbs, cause he cooks, he’s the cook of the house. And I’m okay amending that. Like, I can cook, but, God, his food is so much better. It just does something to me when he goes out that back door, and goes straight to the rosemary and the sage, and picks it and comes back in the house, like, it just- I’m more proud of that moment than him eating the lettuce! You know? It’s just great. It’s beautiful. You know, he’s picked a few raspberries and ate ‘em. And I’m like “That’s what’s up,” you know? That’s what it’s about.
And my baby girl, she’s four, and I started her in the garden at two. And she understands what’s edible and what isn’t, so far. And i keep introducing new things to her and she’s very aware. And she’ll- ”It’s not time to pick that, Mommy.” “No it is not.” “Well, I mean, we can, but we’d have to fry it,” talking about green tomatoes. And I’m like “You right. You know, you shouldn’t just pop a green tomato in your mouth. That might not taste too good.” “Yeah, but we can harvest these because it’s a deep color.” And I say “Yeah,” and she’ll squeeze it, you know, and she’s like, “Ah, yeah. These are good.” That is four! Four years old! And she can tell you how to harvest pretty much anything right now. We don’t do a lot of potatoes, but other than that, she’s so knowledgeable. And I’m prayin’ that she’ll just continue to love it. You know? She loves to plant seeds. She doesn’t like to water. Nobody likes to water, right? But she loves to plant them, she loves to watch it grow, and she definitely loves to harvest. But she doesn’t like to water- but that’s okay, she’s four. I don’t like to water, and I don’t expect her to water, but it is so cool to see her understand. That she can eat the greens off of the turnip and eat the root. You know, she understands that and it’s so cool! So cool. She seems to enjoy it. We call her Little Big Girl Farmer online, like when we’re doing social media stuff- I try not to use her name too much- and she’s really owned that. She loves to be called Little Big Girl Farmer. She’ll introduce herself like that out in public sometimes, too, when we’re out in gardens, so I know she’s enjoying it, you know. I just hope she stays that way when she gets older.
This is the full interview transcript of the Bearfruit & Grow story that can be viewed here.