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USDA, Black Veterans Aim To Spark New Interest In Gardening

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

A group of African-American veterans gathered Saturday to learn more about gardening and growing healthy foods.

The workshop was hosted by the USDA and Langston University at the National Association of Black Veterans office in northeast Oklahoma City, and it aims to show that you can take control of your health in your own backyard.

New-aged, simple gardening solutions for any size area were presented to the veterans in attendance, reigniting an old, yet forgotten art in most black households.

“If you’re healthy, then you’re wealthy, so we want them to know that you can survive. Even though the economy might be a little shaky, there are some things you can do for yourself,” said the Rev. James Greenwood, who serves as the national vice president for NABVETS.

Langston University representatives offered guidance on building and maintaining home gardens, while USDA's Oklahoma civil rights manager Chris DeFreese revealed grant opportunities available to the vets for home improvement, as well as agriculture.

DeFreese wants these community elders to pass the knowledge on.

“I think the average age of a farmer right now is somewhere between 56 and 60 years old, so if we don’t get these kids involved in farming, that’s going to be a problem,” DeFreese said.

In food deserts like the one in northeast Oklahoma City, fewer and fewer children are learning how to grow fruits and vegetables from their families.

“We were talking to a group of kids that were about 5 or 6 years old, and we said, ‘Hey, where does that fruit come from?’ Every kid that raised their hand said Walmart,” DeFreese said.

While kids in the city have more options for inexpensive fast food, inexpensive fresh food is lacking. Organizers hope to change the trend.

“We had food out of the garden. We picked fresh vegetables, ate it right then and washed it right then. What we want to do is go back to that same concept of, ‘use what you can,’” Langston University’s USDA 1890 liaison officer Dwight Guy said as he recalled his childhood.

To learn more about the opportunities offered by the USDA, click here or email chris.defreese@ok.usda.gov.

To learn more about scholarships offered through Langston University’s 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Program, click here or email Dwight.guy@osec.usda.gov.

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