Gardening for Change: On the Front Lines and the Home Front


By Allison Dudas, Community & Editorial Manager for Changents

Gardens are simple things. They begin with arable land and seeds, and reach fruition with the help of water, sunlight and a generous serving of TLC. Yes, they are simple. But they can have life-changing importance to gardeners and the communities in which they grow.

Rachel Zedeck “gets” the value of a garden. The social entrepreneur behind Backpack Farm — which equips and trains small landholder farmers in Kenya — is expanding her focus to include the power of gardens in schools. Not only will these gardens help combat malnutrition with the food they produce and the education they provide, they will also serve as investments in one of Africa’s most valuable and vulnerable resources: its youth. ROOTZ Rising, the apropos name of this brilliant initiative, aims to get to get at the “roots” of many challenges faced by East African communities. With the ambitious goal of planting 10,000 school gardens by 2025, ROOTZ reminds us of the simple yet profound value of growing food, and the potential for community-based agriculture to change lives.

Rachel Zedeck

Rachel’s pioneering work got the Changents team thinking: if she and ROOTZ Rising are doing so much good with gardens on the front lines of change in Africa, how are people using their gardens to have a positive impact on the home front? To find the answer, we launched a photo contest on Facebook. The entries were uplifting, colorful and just darn cute! The five gardeners whose photos received the most “likes” will receive a ROOTZ Rising t-shirt courtesy of Love + Water Designs, the t-shirt company that creates wearable philanthropy.

Congratulations to our winners! Take a look at how gardens are helping good to grow in their communities.


Next page: Check out the winning photos!

Charo Buencamino lives on a busy street and still manages to grow corn, okra, eggplants, green beans, lettuce, mustard, ampalaya, chilies, tomatoes, malunggay and kamote tops to name a few. Amidst the business of the city, her garden provides calm, and her whole family — including the dog — gets involved. Guests always leave Charo’s home with a bag full of organic produce and she hasn’t been to the grocery store for produce in a long time!

This colorful entry from Jessica Anger of Brooksville, FL is the result of another chemical-free garden that yields crops for her family and neighbors to enjoy. Jessica began her garden 10 years ago and loves how growing her own food lowers her family’s grocery bill. We love her commitment to eco-friendly gardening; something about which ROOTZ is passionate, too!

Elementary teacher Holly Darold Azevedo submitted these wiggly fellas from her school’s composting system at Sullivan Creek Elementary School in Sonora, CA. People checking out the contest photos went crazy over them — including Rachel Zedeck, who plans to use worms at each of the training gardens for ROOTZ Rising. Worms take waste and turn it into good soil to use for gardens. Holly’s students LOVE working with them!

This adorable photo of a young gardener came from Ynes Zavala (affectionately known as the “Gardening Angel”), one of the people behind the community garden at Enadia Way Elementary School in West Hills, CA. Constructed in 18 months and opened in March of this year, this garden consists of a 4300 square-foot harvest area, a 4300 square-foot native California outdoor classroom habitat, a 4300 square foot native habitat in the rear of the school, 36 berry vines, 36 grapevines and more than 1000 square feet of California Poppies.


The final winning entry comes from the University of California – Berkeley. The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) provides assistance for projects that reduce UC Berkeley’s impact on the earth and make it more sustainable. The photo submitted depicts the composting tea process, UC Berkeley’s Botanical Garden’s main effort to stop using chemical fertilizers and fungicides. The system builds soil health, acts as fertilizer and provides beneficial microorganisms that suppress or eliminate pathogenic fungal problems.

These winning entries help visualize how everyday gardeners can and do create positive impact. From family gardens in backyards to school gardens in which everyone can participate, gardens are being used in innovative ways to teach, empower and feed. It proves that you don’t have to be in Kenya to be a Change Agent gardener.

Do you believe in the power of gardens? Support ROOTZ Rising by purchasing a t-shirt from Love + Water. Half of the $20 purchase price goes to build school gardens in Africa. Reco Jeans, a clothing company dedicated to using recycled materials, is also selling the shirt and will donate $5 extra to ROOTZ for every shirt sold!

Yes, gardens are simple. But wow, can they do a lot!

Changents is a Certified B Corporation dedicated to connecting people who are changing the world with people, organizations and companies that want to help them.



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Get Out! Get Counted! Get To Your Local Farmers Market!

Photo from John Pozadzides via flickr


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Jenny H.
Past Member 2 years ago

I love your post because I like the way you collaborate and share your opinions, great blog, carry on.

Jenny H.
Past Member 2 years ago

You’ve put enormous insights about the topic here, continue the good work!

jessica w.
jessica w7 years ago


Neelam S.
Neelam S.7 years ago

Nice post! Very informative and full of sense. I like it very much. Thank you!

Abbe A.
Azaima A7 years ago

change the world a garden at a time

Trice B.
Trice Schmitz7 years ago

I try hard to grow veggies and fruit with little success. Too much shade in yard and hate to cut down trees. I compost.. Pickup bagged grass and pine straw to mulch that others are throwing out. I plant bushes..trees..perenniels that wildlife can eat. A wonderful thing about gardeners is that we share. Im happy to divide perennials for others to share. I also spread seed or plant a bulb or two in community.

Jo Asprec
Jo Asprec7 years ago

Gardens are good for body and soul, good for the family and the community.

Christa Leduc
Christa Leduc7 years ago

Unfortunately I can't have a garden, because I am renting and only have a balcony. I do grow a few plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes and herbs, but it's difficult because of the high winds we get. I have been saving all my teabags and emptying them into my soil.

Carole K.
Carole K7 years ago

Nice to see all the entry examples of youngsters involved in gardening again. For too many years that has been sorely neglected in our society. When children experience first-hand the toil & joy of growing garden produce, they remember & realize their connection to Mother Earth. That can only lead to a more healthy, cared for world for us all!!!!