The Caregivers is a unique series focused on the challenges and triumphs of caregiving. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between AARP and Word In Black.
Joyce Randolph began a small backyard garden with her daughter at their home in Indianapolis in 2013. Together, her family has grown it into a community endeavor called Elephant Garden LLC. At 79-years-old, Randolph is the oldest of five generations (with 16 great-grandchildren and one great, great-grandchild). She is determined to bring healthy food options to her area and to leave a legacy for the whole community.
What are you growing in your garden?
Well, let’s see: Green beans. Okra. Two or three varieties of tomatoes. About four or five varieties of peppers. (We even throw in a few ghost peppers for those who really like hot.) Eggplant. Cucumbers.
That’s a good list.
What am I forgetting? We do onions. We do garlic. We do potatoes. We do leeks. Then, we also have herb gardens. We do oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary lavender, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm.
Does everyone tend to the garden?
Everyone has a part — from planting seeds to putting everything in the ground to taking care of it, harvesting it, and providing it to residents in our neighborhood.
How is gardening good for the mind?
You’re out in God’s green acres. You’re tilling the soil. It’s relaxing. It’s definitely hard work. You’ve gotta fight the weeds and the bugs and all of that, but for the mind, it’s a peaceful situation. You’re definitely in touch with the earth because there’s no way you can garden without touching the earth. It brings us back to where we really started. I mean, when someone passes away and we put them “in the ground,” we put them in the dust from where they became. It brings you right back to your creator.
What do you find is good about community gardening, in particular?
It brings people together. We have conversations with people walking down the street. That’s one of the benefits of being a community garden is that you are interacting with those in your neighborhood. It gives a thorough understanding of what mankind really is all about. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, I am my brother’s keeper and it does not mean my blood brother. It means mankind. Womankind. We are in a food desert and we can supply our community.
And the elephant has special symbolism for you?
Their loyalty to their community, which is a big thing for us as a family. They look after their young. They look after each other. They’re a big animal, of course, but they leave a beautiful footprint.
If you’re new to gardening, check out these tips from AARP.
Mental well-being is a cornerstone of healthy living. AARP wants to help you get healthier and stay healthy. Visit AARP’s Mental Health Center at www.aarp.org/mentalhealth for tips, tools and resources that can help you develop healthy habits for mental well-being.