“My family is Native American and black, and our family has been farming for hundreds of years out in the Midwest,” Stewart Bosley, a Vietnam Veteran, said. “So, for me to come here… this is like me giving back.”
Giving back is just what Bosley is doing for several communities in Palm Beach County.
Located on Henrietta Avenue in West Palm Beach, Florida is the Henrietta Bridge Farm Project, of which Bosley is the executive director. The farm is in the center of three low-income communities, burdened by a food desert. According to the American Nutrition Association, a food desert is an urban area in which it is difficult to purchase affordable and fresh food.
Bosley’s goal is to rid Palm Beach County of one of its 27 food deserts and break a generational curse within the community.
“Folks have been eating fried foods four times a day for generation after generation,” Bosley said. “This culture suffers from hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, all of which could be affected by including plants in your diet.”
According to Bosley, locals heavily rely on food provided by fast food chains and corner stores, which leave little room to consider nutritional factors. The lack of proper public transportation systems within these typically impoverished communities also diminishes the chance of people obtaining fresh produce.
Bosley believes the Henrietta Farm Project will push the community in the right direction and bring awareness to the issue throughout Florida.
“Slowly but surely it’s happening. People will start to be concerned for where their food comes from,” Bosley said. “Why are we buying food that’s seven days, eight days old when you can go to get fresh produce in the neighborhood?”
The Henrietta Farm Project contrasts with the communities that surround it. While the neighborhood has a reputation for violence, the garden is a breath of fresh air, according to Bosley.
Volunteer John Booth knows the importance of beautifying the community.
“It doesn’t always have to be a big project,” Booth said. “Just taking a small, little seed and putting it in a cup… giving it to somebody and they can take it home…it can grow into a big tree.”
The garden gives people, especially the youth, something living to care about. Once people become emotionally invested in the garden and about the issue of food deserts, then a real change can be made, according to Bosley.
“If we take care of our food security inside the community, like I’m trying to do, then we’ll eliminate a food desert,” Bosley said. “Otherwise, things will remain the same.”