Earlier this year we interviewed Asiila Rasool an Eco-Muslim from San Diego, about the community garden she and her locals successfully grew from scratch. Read our interview to find out out why Asiila was inspired to grow organic, how she roped her community in, and why home-grown produce is worth all that effort. We hope her efforts will inspire more Muslim women in the Middle East to do that same.
Growing your own garden reduces your carbon footprint, gives you control over what pesticides “stay out” of your garden, and connects you to the land. Here’s our interview with Asiila:
Whose idea was it to start a community garden?
Our community garden idea began as a congregational effort of mostly mine and my two nieces during a homeschool project meeting.
With so many organic markets available and grocery stores providing fresh produce why did you want to grow your own?
We live in SE San Diego; with the lack of major grocery stores the people have limited options in buying from from small food marts. Ergo, the push to bring Farmer Markets and start community gardens throughout this area. We began the garden mostly because we read the writing on the wall: “inflation, shoddy produce, recession, less produce”. With all the benefits of locally grown food we thought what could be more environmentally friendly than our own garden?
How many of you are involved in the community garden project?
The crew includes Musa, Jamila, Muhammad, Basheer, Najla, Karemah, also Faheem and moi. We home school our children so what better way for them to get closer to the earth and become more self-sufficient?
Granted, ALL of us are learning about growing ‘green’ as we go, but luckily there are all kinds of community garden efforts popping up, free composting classes and tours of other master gardener’s properties to keep us motivated.
How can others get involved in a community project or begin their own garden?
The People Produce Project is a grant funded project with a Facebook group and stems from the Project New Village.org, also here in SouthEast. We joined that and are getting access to news of tours, classes and meetings to bring more green to this area.
In the People’s Produce Project, about 1/5 of the participants are Muslim, along with at least 2 of the master gardeners. This should be enough incentive for others to organize one garden in a large community, that they can all take part in and benefit from.
Where is your community garden and what are you growing in these patches?
The garden shown in the photos is in our rented home’s back yard. We grew lettuces and spinach. We also planted 5 trees (3 lemons, a pomegranate and an apple), and have plans to plant more and other types. We’re also looking for where to plant herbs and flowers. I envision sunflowers running the length of our driveway, for example.
How much planning did your garden take and how long will you have to wait for your first bite?
The day after we completed planting our rains came… torrential rain! For about 3 days! Planning such a project takes determination and know how in what kind of plants grow in what type of ground; with my large team uniting on this front, the work load isn’t as daunting either.
My family told me that ‘some’ sprouts are coming up; we have yet to taste our own produce, but judging from other gardener’s produce we’ve tasted, there is NO comparison. Store bought tomatoes and cucumbers are tasteless and watery, whereas the homegrown, organic veggies – fresh off the vine, are like elixirs and nectar, I exaggerate not! About 5 years ago, I grew some squash, beans, tomatoes and they definitely tasted much better than shop bought vegetables too.
What are your long term goals for the community garden? Will you grow any more?
Our goal is to eventually grow enough produce to feed all 44 of us! That will take a lot more growing and planning, but Insha’allah, we’ll at least be able to supplement what we currently buy, Insha’Allah. This is the first of at least 3 community gardens we plan to grow. A second garden is planned for somewhere on my nieces land, probably in the spring. The ultimate goal is to make our yards ‘edible forests.’
(Left: A Muslim woman doing a halal day’s work)
How are your neighbours reacting to your home garden project?
We’ve had no huge reaction yet! We have a hive of bees that have made their home, in the wall on the side of our house, near the garden. Our landlord keeps trying to kill them, but they come back. As long as we give the bees salaam (a peaceful greeting), they just circle us to check us out. I’m sure somehow they’re aware we’re about to bring them some nice pollen!
Finally Asiila, what do you think the future holds for like minded eco-aware Muslims?
The future? It’s coming, and we best get prepared for it. A key issue for us will be finding enough water in this area (and in the rest of the world so I hear). Catching rain is an option, as well as using new techniques like double digging and square foot gardening, which we did with this garden. I believe Muslims will reclaim their knowledge and love of agricultural work; working with the land and with their hands. In fact, all the immigrants I know keep at least a herb garden on the tiniest strip of land, if that’s all they have. They also grow vegetables.
We Muslims still have a way to go on learning to give up the plastics and bottled water/sodas and watching what we eat vis a vis our snacks and drinks, but I believe the future will pretty much force Muslims to get back to the old ways. Working in the earth, growing your own food, dealing with nature hands on is so incredibly grounding and spiritual. I believe Muslims will very much become part of the ‘green revolution’ if we’re not already.
Thank you Asiila Rasool!