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  • Jennifer Jewell


Clare Foster and Sabina Rüber. Photo ©Eva Nemeth, all rights reserved.


In honor of the losses, loves, griefs, gains, revisions, and transformations in our world this last year, and in honor of the hopes we all hold in our gardens and our hearts for 2021 and far beyond – we welcome today the muscular voice and vision of Duron Chavis.

Duron is an urban farmer, community activist and advocate in Richmond, Virginia. He started his career at the black history Museum and cultural center of Virginia, and while there in 2003 he founded the highly acclaimed Happily Natural Day Festival in Richmond, a movement which has grown to include a city-wide resiliency garden initiative.

In the past decade, Duron has initiated social justice minded farmer’s markets, transformed green spaces throughout the metro Region into urban gardens, farms, orchards, and vineyards. Among other civic services, he was a member of the inaugural Citizen’s Advisory Board for the Office of Community Wealth Building and was also manager of community engagement for the city’s Lewis Ginter botanical garden helping to begin the work of transforming this public garden from being “a monochromatic island” to a fully functioning community partner.

“People, Plants and places there’s a soul and a spirit that interweaves between these three things – the people in these spaces and the plants that they choose and use become the fabric – of this planet we all live on. "

- Duron Chavis, Gardener/Changemaker

You can find out more about Duron's work and journey story - including his not-always-easy-or-smooth transition from younger years in Germany to a return to the US on his website and through his TEDxRVA talk. These years proved to hold the very challenging - and literally wounding - events that precipitated his backward fall into gardening and the cultivation of communities. Acts which Duron acknowledges and encourages us to join him in of RADICAL VULNERABILITY.

To garden, and to garden with the needs of the many others of us - from soil to water, to trees, to children, to elders, to social and economic systems that either trap or support and liberate us - is an act of radical vulnerability.

Indeed. With that in heart and mind - let us cross this threshold into a new year with all its possibility as the radically intentioned and vulnerable and loving gardeners we can be.

Join us again in the new year. Our first episode of 2021 kicks off a FRESH STARTS themed series which will pop occasionally in the growing cycle. We start off in the garden classroom as it were joined by Tim Johnson, Director of The Botanical Garden of Smith College, and Jamila DePeiza Kern a current horticultural student involved with the garden. Listen in next week!





For some reason while thinking about this conversation with Duron, the term Gardening Out Loud came to me in relation to how he gardens his world. His voice is strong and clear and loud – fierce and loving. Bold and bright and out there for all to see and hear.

As gardeners, we know, we can sometimes be quiet about our love and calling to this activity. It can be an inward and solo engagement.

You all know I am proud to be a gardener. I am. But there is plenty that is hard to know, hard to see let alone say about our gardened and gardener's world. And in this knowledge of harm that the gardened world has done and does do – from employing chemicals against our interdependent green and more than human planet mates to cultural diminishment, destruction and erasure, to complicit and overt perpetuation of consumeristic world views that do not serve any greater good – there is plenty from far before 2020 that we are haunted by.

But as with anything scary – hauntings or shames or griefs – often the best and sometimes only way to process and therefore compost them into something generative moving forward is to speak them out loud.

In the final section of our of conversation, Duron says: “People, Plants and places there’s a soul and a spirit that interweaves between these three things – the people in these spaces and the plants that they choose and use become the fabric – we all live on this planet."

As I look back on this year in the garden and the garden community with voices and plants and gardens from around the world joining in with us in these garden life conversations, I have grown. I have deepened. I have cried and been saddened and been angry and grieved plenty, but in the crucible or perhaps womb of the garden with all of you in conversations like this one – I have been grown.

And if there is anything the garden teaches, shares, shows and knows it is there is always more to learn, more to let go of, and more growing to do. On Repeat.

Duron very much gardens out loud. If you and your garden were to be out loud in this world in this coming year – what would you say? What would you sound like? What curses could the spoken praise songs of such gardening out loud lift for us – what could they grow us up and out of and into for 2021?

If you feel called to share some of this outloud gardening for 2021 with me – you know where to reach me – Cultivatingplace@ or in the comments section of this week’s posts on Instagram @cultivating_place.

Glad to be growing together with you. Thank you for being here with me. Happy New Year gardeners.


All photos used courtesy Duron Chavis. All rights reserved.




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