Waco nonprofit seeks to ‘revive the world back to nature’ with community gardening

Volunteers for Global Revive include Baylor students who provide upkeep and maintenance on the garden. Photo courtesy of Kay Bell

By Luke Lattanzi | Staff Writer

Inconspicuously situated on a once-vacant lot in a sleepy Waco neighborhood on the 1100 block of Taylor Street is an array of crop beds growing vegetables such as onions, cabbage, peas and sorghum. The property is the site of Global Revive — a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 to “revive our world back to nature” by encouraging people to grow their own food.

Global Revive founder Kay Bell said growing her own food enables her to know exactly what is in her produce, citing the various amounts of chemicals or pesticides that may be used with fruits and vegetables that are sold at grocery stores.

“It’s got to be changed — that growing your own food, being able to eat from your own [garden so] you know what was put in it, versus you going to these stores, you don’t know what was put in it,” Bell said.

As a Black woman, Bell said she believes growing food from home is integral to Black culture, but it has gained a negative connotation with other Black Americans due to the country’s history of slavery. While Bell had trouble convincing other Black Americans in her community to consider joining the garden at first, she said she has made progress.

“It was basically to show people [how] to revive people back to growing gardens,” Bell said. “I think I want to say specifically [with] African American [people], I think it’s part of our culture that we grew our own food. And somehow we got away from that, because it [pertains to] slavery if we go back to that.”

The Global Revive farm is organized into an array of plant beds that all belong to different people who participate, and each person is free to grow vegetables of their choosing.

Bell, a retired school teacher born and raised in Tyler, followed her husband to Waco in 2008. Despite liking teaching, she said her true passion was gardening, so she took an early retirement to pursue it full time.

The idea for Global Revive came to her when she decided to plant zucchinis, squash and tomatoes on a vacant lot that had previously been used to store trash. The trash, she said, acted as compost that made the soil rich with nutrients, causing the vegetables she had planted to grow very large.

“I’m literally telling you, people used to drive slow just to look over there at that lot,” Bell said. “My tomatoes had gotten that tall. I know that soil was so rich.”

After selling her produce at a local market and making $75 within the first 15 minutes, Bell knew she had something. She now lives in Bellmead, where she has her own three-acre farm, with Global Revive being her project in Waco-proper.

Yumi Nays — a volunteer with Global Revive who is currently growing onions, cabbage, tomatoes, peas and sorghum — said the organization is also geared toward teaching younger people how to grow their own food and cultivate a love of farming.

“We do teach our younger generations how to do the raised beds when we’re working with raised beds,” Nays said. “We’ve had summer programs where we had kids come out in summer and plant, and we teach them how to plant and dig into the dirt.”

Despite the health benefits associated with growing food from home, Nays said there are some difficulties. Weeds are a constant threat to crops and must be manually pulled from the ground. He also said Global Revive doesn’t use any chemicals or pesticides, holding up a leaf from one of the crops with a bunch of holes in it — evidence of not using pesticides that many companies use to keep pests away.

All weeds pulled from the ground as well as other participants’ food waste are placed in the four compost bins on the farm for the eventual creation of fresh soil — a process Nays said is keeping in practice with regenerative agriculture.

Bell said she is currently developing a plan to present to the Waco City Council in order to develop a partnership with the city in hopes of creating even more farms on vacant lots. Such a process might be a challenge though, she said, as the vacant lots are also being used by the city to build new houses to accommodate the influx of new residents.

Nays said he encourages young people to get involved in gardening, as it can teach valuable life lessons such as patience and delayed gratification.

“We should get more young people that volunteer themselves to find community gardens,” Nays said. “It’s like looking for a book. It’s like going to a library when you come to the gardens, because there’s so much to learn.”

Luke Lattanzi is a senior political science major with a minor in news-editorial originally from Monroe Township, New Jersey, now based in Houston. In his last semester at the Lariat, he is excited to learn more about what it takes to report for a daily news publication. Luke also serves as assistant editor for conservative digital magazine American Pigeon. He hopes to work for a publication as a reporter after graduation.