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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Planting a new future

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Indiana, in the heartland of America, is known for farming, but the city has gotten away from its roots. The expansion of housing developments and communities moved farmland farther away from the state capital. 

Joyce Randolph always saw the need for homegrown produce in her community. With the prices of healthy produce increasing, Randolph took it upon herself to provide people with fresh produce they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Randolph feels the business name, Elephant Gardens, fits her mission perfectly.

“Why the name Elephant Gardens?” Randolph asked. “Elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet and yet they are herbivores. Elephants are also fiercely protective of their young at almost any cost. Elephants are known for their compassion, understanding, loyalty and keen sense of duty to their herd. It is this strong family bond that is the hallmark of the elephant pack.”

For all of these reasons, Randolph chose the elephant to represent her garden. Plus, using the elephant helps her connect with children. Her passion for the next generation of children is what drives her.

 “What better symbol for an urban garden established for the purpose of promoting healthy diets, engaging and training the youth of the community to grow organic vegetables and fruit, and fostering a positive community environment in which to raise families?” she asked. 

Randolph provides fresh produce for people who live in a food desert. According to the USDA food deserts are devoid of fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy options and are found in low-income neighborhoods.

“My home area is a known food desert in Indianapolis with no grocery store within walking distance of me and my neighbors,” Randolph said. “This is a serious issue with people who want and need to eat healthier. Without that access people have no choice but to eat unhealthy fast food that is closer to their area.” 

Many neighborhoods on the eastside of Indianapolis don’t have a grocery store nearby. Instead, residents rely on convenience stores or low-cost dollar stores that offer plenty of snacks — chips, candy bars, sodas, cupcakes — but lack healthy options, Randolph said. In addition to teaching nearby residents about the importance of healthy eating, Randolph also educates people on what foods they can grow at home. Her ultimate goal with Elephant Gardens is to help build a community that’s aware of how to make good food choices.

The garden continues to grow and now sits on two properties. 

“In 2013 we bought the land for our first garden on Sherman Drive,” Randolph’s daughter, Vivian, said. “Because we acquired the land so late in the season, we decided to start working on the land in 2014. We officially began in 2015 and we were only selling to family and friends during the start because we didn’t know how to build our base yet.”

It didn’t take much time for the garden to build its clientele through numerous partnerships with churches and local nonprofit organizations.

“We have worked with the Urban League, Mount Carmel Church along with St. Andrew’s parish,” Randolph said. “Recently we’ve partnered with Eastern Star Church who is starting their own grocery store and trying to get all Black farmers and growers involved. With all of these partnerships, we are growing and distributing about 6,000 pounds of produce.”

While Elephant Gardens, 3348 N. Sherman Drive, doesn’t have set hours of operation, you can purchase produce by calling 317-550-0125 or emailing  egardens4us@gmail.com. 

Contact staff writer Dontre Graves at 317-762-7848 or email dontreg@indianapolisrecorder.com.

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