Haitian Independence Day and “Soup Joumou”

Written by Jerry Pierre

January 1st might seem like a normal day for other people., aside from it being the first day of a new year, but as someone from Haitian descent, it holds a lot more meaning. On January 1st 1804, the country of Haiti would gain independence and liberate themselves from French colonial rule. Centuries later, Haitian people worldwide still celebrate this victory. This landmark date is celebrated in many ways, but there is one way of celebration that is a staple in Haitian culture, and that is the eating of “Soup Joumou” or “Squash soup” as it is called in English.

Now, even though this dish is very well-known in the Haitian community, I still would consider it a family recipe. Though we may not be blood related, I see my fellow Haitian people as my brothers and sisters, no matter how much of a stranger they are. Now, you’re probably wondering how the soup is made. Well my family, and I’m sure lots of other Haitian families, use organic home-grown ingredients to make this dish. Obviously, the most important ingredient is Squash. Last year my mother, who cooks it every year for my father and I, used organic squash which is what I prefer since it improves the soup incredibly. Other organic ingredients we use are cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, and corn. The only non-organic ingredients we put in the soup are beef and macaroni. Waking up and drinking this soup with bread on the side is something I look forward to every new years day. My mother sometimes loves to share some soup with my upstairs neighbor, who is also Haitian, and sometimes vice-versa. Same with her other Haitian friends too. I love checking on my social media to see my friends who are not of Haitian descent try the soup. It’s amazing that food can bring so many people together. It feels good to be part of a culture with such a rich tradition. In conclusion, I hope this blog post inspires more and more people from other ethnicities and backgrounds to learn more about this tradition, and maybe try to make their own soup too!

Camaraderie in Community Gardens

A look inside the plots at our community garden. Photo taken by Jones Farm.

Each year my parents and I grow edible plants and decorative flowers in Spring and Summer. We have a plot in a community garden down the street from our house, where other people in town also rent plots and grow whatever crops they want. I’ve learned by having this plot over the years that there is a sense of camaraderie and a lot of teamwork in a community garden. I see this in a couple different areas- in the upkeep of the community garden land, and in seeing excess crops being shared between gardeners.

There is always help needed at a community garden. At ours, there is regular weeding and mowing that needs to be done in the grass aisles in between each plot. Sometimes the fences need to be mended, the watering tanks need to be fixed, and gas needs to be put in the lawn mowers and rototillers. The organizer of the garden seeks help with all of these tasks from plot owners. Without it, no one would be able to use the land because it would become messy and unorganized, so community gardeners depend on each other to keep the land workable.

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed plant at our garden.

I’ve also seen lots of sharing between gardeners, especially in mid to late summer when plants are growing with copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. There’s a picnic table at the entrance to the plots where gardeners often put a basket or bag of excess produce that’s up for grabs. My parents and I have done that quite a few times, especially when our tomato harvest becomes too much for three people to eat and we’ve exhausted everyone we know with bags of them. Whatever is left on that table always gets taken, which is nice to see. You know that the surplus goods did not go to waste. I also see recipes and planting techniques shared between gardeners, which we do often with our plot neighbor, who’s a master farmer.

Our excess harvest of cherry tomatoes last year that we put in a bucket and left at the table at our community garden for anyone to take.

I think the bond between people in a community garden comes from not only needing to rely on others to have the land be functional and organized, but also because gardening itself is an act that’s all about giving. With a good harvest, you’re giving yourself and your family homegrown produce, and you could have excess crops to give to others who don’t have a garden so they can experience farm fresh food too. In a community garden, it’s all about teamwork to make the gardening season successful for all.