Martin back from Italy trip

Published 12:36 am Sunday, November 9, 2014

Gardens have a way of bringing people together, even in other parts of the world.

Selma native Jerria Martin, executive coordinator of 21st Century Youth Leaders, had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Turin, Italy and represent her hometown at the 2014 Terra Madre Slow Food Conference.

“It was one of the most awesome experiences of my life,” Martin said. “I had an opportunity to not only represent my organization, but I also had an opportunity to represent Selma which is my pride and joy.”

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Martin, as one of the 250 delegates at the conference, was able to set up a booth and share information about Selma and the Black Belt with people from around 250 different countries.

“Being able to represent Selma and the Black Belt in Italy was just amazing,” Martin said.

At  different booths, countries would hand out information and show off some of their items and food from home.

“At each table, you would have something that represents the culture of that area,” Martin said. “At our table, we had peanuts and organic jam.”

The peanuts and jam were a big hit, according to Martin, who said people also enjoyed talking to her about where she was from.

“I would have a chance to just tell them our story,” Martin said. “I told the story of Selma. I told the story of 21st century, and how we’re beginning change right here in Selma and using the richness of our soil to make a difference in our community as well.”

When she wasn’t working at her booth, Martin was able to visit other booths to see what they had to offer.

“It was just so inspirational to hear the stories from people all around the world,” Martin said. “It was just like walking around the world.”

Martin and the other participants would talk about differences in food and culture and share personal experiences about how they are trying to make a difference in their communities.

“What was most inspirational was the story behind that food,” Martin said. “Almost every booth that I went to had a story about how the community came together to produce.”

Although so many different countries were in attendance, Martin said she didn’t have a problem communicating with every one.

“One thing I learned on this trip is that smiling is a universal language,” Martin said.

Now that she is back in Selma, she is focusing on bringing the community together through gardens and using the resources already in Selma.

“We have to take what we have to make what we need,” Martin said. “I was really inspired by the people from all over the world who use what they have to make what they needed, while providing fresh organic foods for everyone.”

Martin, and 21st Century Youth Leadership, have already begun creating community gardens but are looking to start even more.

“We would love to help any churches that would like to have a community garden,” Martin said. “Any organization, any school that is interested in working with us, we’re open.”

Martin said she is excited to bring the residents of Selma together in a project that is very close to her heart.

“It’s almost like magic when a community comes together. It’s like planting little seeds of hope in both the ground and each other,” Martin said. “That’s the beauty of having a community garden, it unites man with man and also unites man with God, and it unites man with nature. It’s like a triple dose of awesomeness.”