Women's History Month - Women in Agriculture #2 - Trudy Fernandez
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
My Grandmother, Gertrude (Trudy) Fernandez, a Boston native, second generation in the US from Cape Verde was a woman from many occupations. She raised six children of her own and the last address I knew her to live at was in the Franklin Field Projects in Dorchester. These projects are a part of Boston’s public housing authority. This is where my food story really starts. Well actually I can go back to my great grandparents who I believe to be sharecroppers in the Cape Verde Islands before moving to the united states.
My grandmother was straight out of the late 1930s which means she was resourceful and practiced a lot of sustainable methods. “Waste not, want not” was an everyday mantra in our house. She recycled, reduced and reused everything almost all the way down to the bath water. When I visited my grandmother and while she raised me we kept a very clean house. When we woke up in the morning we had to clean ourselves, straighten up our rooms and make our beds before eating breakfast. There was no going outside in your pajama pants or wearing your scarf on your head.
Before my grandmother moved to Minneapolis she would take care of her garden plot which was one of many in a community garden beyond the front door in the Franklin Field Projects. Everyday when I was outside playing with other children the garden was right there. When we would walk my older sister to Lee Elementary school the garden was right there. When we played hood tennis in the street with no net, the garden was right there and when I wanted some candy or a frozen Kool-Aid treat from the lady next door, the garden was right there. I grew up around food growing. My grandmother would take us with her to her garden patch. I think almost every resident had one. However, my grandmother’s was well decorated. I didn’t really understand what it was that we were really doing out there but I enjoyed spending the time with her and those vegetables. I never really saw the hard work, just the picking of the fruit.
When my grandmother moved to Minneapolis to care for my older sister and me she made sure that the landlord knew that she was going to till the ground in the backyard and grow her a garden. She had all of her grandchildren out there too. We did not have sophisticated garden tools with electricity. It was good ole manual labor. We tilled the soil with a shovel. We removed the weeds with our hands. We hoed, we raked, we waited and she taught us how to harvest. She taught all of her grandchildren agricultural skills whether they liked it or not. We followed her direction. She was mindful of adding flowers in with the veggies for pollination and beauty, Marigold flowers were her favorite. She depended on nature as well as Miracle Grow. Having a home garden was one of the most beautiful and sustainable things that our home had. I am thankful to have learned these skills at home.
There are many ways that we can grow our own food or join others in growing food. Community gardens are located in every city, especially in public housing areas. Here they will most likely supply you with everything you need to get started from seeds to soil and water. They will even make sure that you have a garden mentor. If you live in public housing, look around in the courtyard to see if a community garden has been started or you can suggest to the management to work with the city to help get one started for your community.
Home gardens are wonderful. They are conveniently located in your own yard. If you have pets, secure them in their own area so that they do not damage your plants or use the soil for a bathroom. Some advice before you begin, have a plan of where you would plant, what you want to grow and test your soil. It doesn’t take much to get started. Before you know it you will be enjoying your own bell peppers from your own yard or teaching your own children and grandchildren these skills.
We salute Gertrude Fernandez, a woman in agricultural history during this lovely month of March!