Phoenix: Heart & Soil People’s Garden is a hub for women and people of color

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Phoenix: Heart & Soil People’s Garden is a hub for women and people of color

By: Nina Bhattacharyya, Senior Technical Specialist, People’s Garden Initiative Coordinator in Farming, via

Chanika Forte, founder of Heart & Soil People’s Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, shared her reflections on the connections between women, gardening, and food justice.

A dedicated advocate for community empowerment, environmental sustainability, and food sovereignty, Chanika is also the founder of BaeHive and ABC Mobile, a beekeeping program and education platform that promotes sustainable agriculture.

Heart & Soil People’s Garden is a vibrant hub for women and people of color to grow and share fresh, healthy produce, develop valuable skills, and contribute to a thriving, eco-conscious community. They offer workshops and classes, markets, and garden plots for growers living within a three-mile radius.

Nina Bhattacharyya: What inspires the work you do?

Chanika: The rich history of women's involvement in agriculture -- from tending crops to advocating for food justice -- fuels my passion for creating positive change. The resilience and determination exhibited by women throughout history serve as a reminder that I am part of a long lineage of women who have worked the land… (We seek to) continue their legacy by empowering women of all backgrounds to connect with the earth, cultivate their own food, and reclaim their place in the agricultural landscape.

Nina: Tell me more about your women-led urban farm!

Chanika: Our women-led urban farm at Heart & Soil is more than just a place to grow food; it's a vibrant community hub rooted in the legacy of women in agriculture. As a fifth-generation farmer, (which I did not know when I started farming) I now draw inspiration from the women in my family who have been working the land through sharecropping and farming for generations. Their resilience and commitment to sustainable land stewardship guide our practices at the garden. We also prioritize inclusivity and empowerment, particularly for women of color, by providing training and resources to become beekeepers. In doing so, we honor trailblazers like Mrs. Margaret Murray Washington and Fannie Lou Hamer, who laid the groundwork for community-led agricultural initiatives. Our goal is not only to grow food but also to cultivate a sense of belonging and empowerment for all members of our community.

Visit the People’s Garden webpage to learn more.

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