Published May 18, 2020

Along the stream, birds gather under and along the thick perch. “It wakes me up every morning,” Lilia Fuquen tells me. As Virginia Humanities’ director of Food & Community, her work has drastically transformed over the past three months. Having had to cancel the Food & Community summit that she’s been working to organize over the past few years, she is now working with local farms and other organizations to help people start immunity gardens at home.

“Now is the time to remember that our first medicine is not what we go to the pharmacy to pick up in a plastic bottle that was shipped from overseas,” she explains. “That really our medicine could be and that is what immunity gardens is working to do.”

Lilia Fuquen, Virginia Humanities’ Food & Community Director

Mid-march, she was at a Fairfield Farms gathering discussing how to respond to emerging needs. Collectively the group realized that this was beyond scaling food production. It was about empowering community members to participate in their own health and nourishment through gardening food and herbs. That’s when immunity gardens were born.

“We are working together to put together a template,” she explains, “and start with maybe just three or four or five herbs learn how to plant these particular plants with these particular properties that are very easy for them to tend and use as tea as a salve, ways that they can help end to themselves and their families.

The immunity garden is the return of victory gardens. But instead of victory — which implies an enemy, Lilia explains — immunity gardens are focused on strengthening our bodies and communities.

Riffing off of the Victory Gardens of World War II, when the government encouraged people to grow food instead of lawns in the face of food shortages, the immunity garden is focused less on victory against an implied enemy and more on strengthening the mind and body.

Seedlings planted at Fairfield Farm in Afton, Virginia

Fuquen is also a member of the University of Virginia’s Sustainable Food Strategy Task force (SFSTF), which recently established the Fresh Farmacy program, which makes fresh locally sourced fruits and vegetables accessible to people through the University of Virginia’s Local Food Hub. The project is another iteration of collaboration across networks to ensure and sustain rapid responses to uncertain times.

“We are in a moment,” Fuquen says, “where we do not know where our food is actually going to come from a year from now.”

Listen to the segment, below, and don’t be shy! Give us a call at 434-253-0396 with any immunity garden questions, and let us know what you’re growing.

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