A community garden on the George H. Cook campus at Rutgers is demonstrating how Mexican communities in the United States can reconnect with their cultural and agricultural roots, while at the same time improving residents' health and the economic vitality of their neighborhoods.
Lazos America Unida, a nonprofit community group, initially created a community garden to grow marigolds for Day of the Dead celebrations, an important cultural event for the Mexican community. The project became a rallying point for local Mexican and other Spanish-speaking immigrants to create a cohesive sense of community.
In partnership with Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, the program promotes economic development, urban gardening, job training, and education. These elements are creating intergenerational and intercommunity links, making the project a successful model for mutual respect, agricultural microenterprise, and community health.
Goals for expanding the program include job and business training opportunities for local residents; health, nutrition, and cooking classes; and increasing exposure to Rutgers to enhance access to higher education for the children of Mexican immigrants. Toward this latter goal, in collaboration with Laura Bovitz in the Department of 4-H Youth Development, we have recently established the first New Brunswick 4-H group with more than a hundred youth, and parent volunteers and Rutgers University students volunteering with 4-H groups.
The Marigold Project has been built through countless hours of volunteer work by Lazos America Unida. With increased matching support from the university and grassroots organizations in the community, it will continue to grow and prosper.
You can help to empower recent immigrants to obtain educational, economic, cultural, and social equity by funding the Marigold Project. Contact us for more information.
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