Legacy Garden: where everyone belongs


Lia Portillo Cantarero

The Legacy Garden is a community and learning garden that provides physical and financial access to its neighbors.

At the heart of west Natchitoches, the Ben D. Johnson Educational Center’s Legacy Garden provides a sustainable resource for the Natchitoches community.

The garden is a part of the Legacy Corner Store and the food source for Legacy Cafe. It is maintained and cared for by volunteers in Natchitoches and students from the BDJ Center.

The garden and nutrition coordinator, Bridget Gustafson, explains the importance of the garden.

“The legacy garden aims to provide fresh healthy produce to our neighbors,” Gustafson said.

The Legacy Garden is a community and learning garden that provides physical and financial access to its neighbors, Gustafson said. Members of the community are allowed to use food stamps to purchase the produce at the Legacy Corner Store. The Legacy Corner Store also offers free workshops for the community to learn how to harvest their own food.

“We are passing on knowledge on how to grow food, all things garden related and putting it into other people’s hands so that they can utilize this knowledge to do it themselves,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson also puts in the effort to make the garden as organic as possible.

“We are a full circle garden, which means that students plant the seeds, harvest them, cook them in the cafe and then anything that is not usable goes into the compost pile,” Gustafson said. “We also get coffee grounds from StoryBrew Coffee Cafe, and we are looking to partner up with other restaurants to try to mitigate as much food waste as we can.”

Some students at Northwestern State University of Louisiana bring their scraps for compost to the garden in an effort to contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.

“Growing your food is ultimately, I believe, the most sustainable thing that you can do,” she said.

Shannon Tucker is a Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) leader at the BDJ Center who is progressively learning about the garden.

“We had a master gardener that came to help supervise it for six months. We also had a lot of help organizing it with the Good Food Project from Alexandria,” Tucker said. “They bring us nice clean dirt for all of our beds and a bunch of our plants.”

The community beds outside the fenced area of the garden are open to the public. Members of the community can plant and harvest those batches for free.

One volunteer, Gabriela Campos, said she has learned the hard work and strength it takes to pursue this type of initiative for a community.

“In this city, it is a tradition to plant and have home gardens, it is a fertile and noble land to plant seasonal vegetables,” Campos said. “But to be able to pass through the street where the Legacy Garden is and that anyone can freely take the vegetables that are planted there, it is something revolutionary, as well as making community with other people while working the land with respect, that is a true act of love.”