Taqwa's Family Tree
“From an early age a recurring theme with my family was growing our own food,” says Kadeesha Williams, describing her life growing up in the family that led the charge to create Tawqa Community Farm. The farm was once an empty lot in her family’s neighborhood in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. Her father, Bobby Watson; her grandfather, Abu Talib; and other community members transformed the space into a garden to be used as a haven for their families and neighbors.
“Twenty to thirty years ago, our neighborhood was not safe and our parents did their best to create safe spaces in the community. “This is where our family is, where our friends hang out,” recalls Kadeesha. “Inside the gates was a safe space.” With the help of organizations such as Just Food, Green Guerillas, Bronx Green Up, and Greenthumb, Taqwa evolved over time and now includes community garden space, a farmers’ market, as well as composting and chickens.
When Kadeesha was eight years old, she and her father planted her first tomato in her new garden plot. Thanks to that experience, she believes that growing food at a young age is an important way to learn about success and failure, and to give kids the opportunity to experience responsibility.
While Kadeesha focused on growing food, her sister, Ashanti, became involved in Taqwa’s farmers’ market with her father. “I began to get involved in the farm at age 11 when my dad, brother, and I started the market. I was in charge of running the market for four years after that, so I’ve been assistant manager for about ten years now,” says Ashanti of her involvement in the farm. “I have also been working to complete the Master Composting program at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and am learning to manage Taqwa’s chicken coop.”
The girls’ attribute their passion for agriculture to their family. “I would not be in this position without my dad, grandpa, and family creating this space in the first place and teaching me along the way. It has taught me about the importance of maintaining relationships with family, especially your older relatives,” says Kadeesha, who now is the Community Horticulturist at Bronx Green Up. “It is also important as an adult to teach kids early on so they can become teachers and continue to pass the knowledge down to their family and friends.”
“It feels like I have a legacy,” says Ashanti when reflecting on her family’s involvement at Taqwa. “My grandfather started it with his son, my father, and they've been doing it ever since. My grandfather is 83 now. Thanks to him, my sisters, youngest cousins, and I know the importance of farming, keeping it in the family, and passing it down while including people from the community. With my grandpa and father as our pillars and guides, we all have something to take on and pass down to our children.”
Beyond community garden plots and the market, Taqwa hosts programming to teach community members of all ages the importance of growing and cooking your own food. Taqwa holds regular cooking demonstrations at the farmers’ market for shoppers and garden work days for student groups.
Kadeesha, Ashanti, their grandfather, and other family members continue to expand and develop Taqwa today. They are working on a plan to include market plots, grow mounded beds, add new programming, and are even looking to gain nonprofit status in order to create paid job opportunities for community members at the farm. The family is also focused on keeping young people involved in the space who can keep the spirit and operations of Taqwa and the community alive. Their goal is for Taqwa to become a hub not only for their family, but for their whole community.
“It is a place where all generations can mingle,” says Kadeesha. ”No matter how old you are, where you are in society, you still have to eat and it is good to bond over that.”