Bridging Selma

Seeding a Garden in the Food Desert

For $10 local residents dined on southern delicacies like pulled pork sandwiches, ribs and chicken. The more adventurous tasted alligator bites and rattlesnake eggs all in the name of supporting Grow Selma’s goal to build a community garden during the Rock ‘N ‘Ribs benefit on April 25, at Lion’s Fair Park in Selma.

“The community is going to learn all about healthy food, how to plant, and maintain a garden,” said Grow Selma board member, Jerria Martin.

The organization was founded by Selma resident Clay Carmichael, who wanted to start a benefit group and organize events to fundraise for local charities.

Times are tough in Selma—particularly for the black community.

The median household income for white residents in Selma is $41,448 but for black residents, it is $19,591. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is 3.8 percent for white men and 18.8 percent for black men.

Many families are struggling for balanced meals in what local residents call a “food desert,” an area defined by the Agriculture Department as one where healthful local foods are hard to find due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets and healthy food providers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2009 and 2013, the poverty rate for Selma’s white residents (3,562 during that period) was 14.4 percent, while the percentage of blacks below the poverty level was 48.4 percent.

In Selma, the number of poor people has only grown in the 50 years since the community became one of the epicenters of the civil rights and poor peoples’ movements. The number of people who receive food stamps remains high. Forty-eight percent of the 28,591 African Americans in Dallas County hold Electronic Benefits Transfers (EBT) cards. Grow Selma worries that they aren’t using them to buy healthy food.

“Families that have food stamps are using them to buy hot dogs, quick meals, and pork and beans,” Martin said.

Participating in the garden is a way for Selma residents to help shape their own future.

“[Selma residents] are going to have an ownership in the garden because it’s going to unite us… as a community,” said Martin. “But it’s also going to teach them valuable lessons about growing and maybe they can start a mini-garden in their own backyard.”

-story by Ahjahnae LaQuer, video by Erin Irwin, and photos by Doyle Maurer


Ahjahnae LaQuer
MSU student


Erin Irwin
WVU student


Doyle Maurer
WVU student