Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Despite Adverse Weather Conditions and a Transient Population, a Garden Sprouts in a Desert

August 19, 2014
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Despite Adverse Weather Conditions and a Transient Population, a Garden Sprouts in a Desert
DirecTV volunteers revitalize the Vegas Roots Community Garden started by Rosalind Brooks in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken/Getty Images
A Las Vegas community garden gives most of its bounty to youth groups and senior centers.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While some find rolling hills and crystal clear lakes attractive, it’s an abandoned Las Vegas parking lot for others.

That’s the situation with Rosalind Brooks. Looking at the vacant lot across the interstate from Las Vegas’s moribund downtown, she saw the potential for something foreign in that area: a community garden.

Brooks has a degree in business, a master’s in education, has worked at various jobs and has two children, but from the moment she laid eyes on that lot, she knew this garden was her calling.

That vision came to fruition when the Vegas Roots Community Garden opened in March 2010 — becoming the first community garden in Las Vegas. Run entirely by volunteer labor, the garden covers an acre of land and produces organic herbs and vegetables as well as chickens. Most of the produce is either sold or donated to youth groups and senior centers.

The garden also boasts a demonstration permaculture garden run by the Greater Basin Permaculture. In this garden, artichokes, thyme, Echinacea, lettuce, sunflowers and pomegranates flourish. The garden isn’t just for the group though. Greater Basin Permaculture also hosts classes and weekly work parties to teach participants important gardening skills to keep the crops alive.

And while it hasn’t been difficult to keep the crops alive in the 115 degree Fahrenheit heat of Las Vegas, growing a supportive base in the area has been. Las Vegas isn’t a place where most people settle; rather it’s a place boasting a large turnover rate.

Because of that, many of the garden’s volunteers are from other places in the metro area. But this isn’t a discouraging factor for Brooks. The recent economic crisis has meant that more people are staying in the area.

Beyond that, though, the garden has served as an inspiration for others. Across the city, gardens are popping up in schools and churches, giving kids the access to healthy food, exercise, nature and job skills. In addition, there’s a growing farmer’s market scene.

For Brooks, all of the hard work has been completely worth it and her expectations for the future keep getting higher.

“I see the hand of God in every single thing we’ve done,” she told Grist.

MORE:  A Garden Grows In Camden

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