DAARC, RRAAM use garden to teach freedom

DAARC clients water and check Freedom Garden weekly to help maintain it for the River Road African American Museum.

For the past few seasons, the Donaldsonville Area Arc has combined with the River Road African American Museum to maintain a fresh foods garden. Today, it is known as “Freedom Garden” as museum director Kathe Hambrick has connected the foods to what the Black slaves and pioneers used to survive during times of oppression.

While Hambrick is able to use the garden as a learning instrument, the DAARC just enjoying being able to tend it. DAARC clients Donna, Nateda, Sharon and Janice all play major roles in keeping the garden alive with weekly visits for upkeep.

“It’s been fun to watch it grow, pick it, and eat it,” Lori Templet said, a DAARC staff.

Templet said probably over half of the clients who come to the DAARC have had a hand in getting Freedom Garden going and maintain to its present state.

Currently there is squash, peas, green beans, eggplant, okra, and basil.

“It’s a good project, I think it’s awesome,” Templet said.

Marlene Domingue, Director of the DAARC, said the project started with the museum asking the DAARC to do lawn care and evolved into the garden.

“We’re glad to have it,” Domingue said.

Freedom Garden is part of the National Park Service and was started five years ago thanks to a grant Hambrick received from the National Park Service.

Hambrick said the garden reveals the history of Louisiana’s Underground Railroad and shows a variety of vegetation that was cultivated through the use of slave labor.

She said freedom seekers might have used the edible and medicinal plants displayed for survival while escaping from the plantations in the region. It started as an exhibit garden, but now it can contribute to nutrition of the people who live in our community in big part thanks to the DAARC for the upkeep and developing it.

“We are so grateful for them helping us maintain the garden,” Hambrick said. “There are hundreds of visitors who see the garden.”

Hambrick said it’s a learning experience because it’s also a reading garden, which is part of the education experience, and she is looking to add a program with math in the garden.

“We’re always trying to be creative and innovative in providing learning experiences for young people,” Hambrick said.