The Grove Community Garden has a new leader, one with roots in the community and a desire to continue the work of his predecessor.
Jordan Sturdivant, a Grove resident, was selected by the garden’s board to assume management of the garden as executive director after the unexpected death of Rob Till, the garden’s previous executive director.
“I kind of felt Rob would want me to step in and take charge,” Sturdivant said. “I felt everyone had my back and that they were confident in me.”
Sturdivant is a familiar face at the garden with deep ties in the Grove community. He has volunteered at the garden for close to four years.
“I got interested in it because I know that Grove is a food desert. I was really starting to get big on watching what I eat and I wanted to learn how to grow my own food,” he said.
Sturdivant has big shoes to fill. Till was a passionate and driven advocate for the garden for years until his death June 27.
Sturdivant said Till had done a good job of leading the garden and expects to build on the momentum he created, adding that Till’s death might galvanize community members to invest more heavily in the garden.
“I know that Mr. Rob had it going in a great direction. I think his passing will instill some urge, if you will, to want to contribute to the garden,” he said. “With Rob passing, I think that, in his name, people will want to keep it growing and expand. That’s really where I see this garden going.”
The board voted unanimously to name Sturdivant executive director on June 30, board member Mark “M” Mueller said in an email.
“When he stepped forward and offered to be director in the days following Rob's death, it made me really happy,” Mueller said.
Mueller noted Till had successfully moved the garden toward organic practices before his death. Sturdivant’s interest in the health benefits of the garden’s produce and commitment to the health of community residents make Mueller hopeful the garden will keep on its current trajectory.
“I immediately told him he had my support. He has deep family ties in Grove, he's young and energetic and, speaking as a gardener now, I know he is dedicated to growing really good food, just like Rob was,” Mueller said.
But before the garden can move into the future, it plans to give its energetic advocate a final sendoff.
A memorial service will be held for Till from 1-4 p.m. Saturday. The service will take place at James River Elementary School’s cafeteria and at the garden, Sturdivant said. The garden is located behind the school.
People who knew Till will gather to reflect on Till’s life and contributions to the community. Refreshments will be provided.
“We want to end things right for him. It will be a celebration of life,” he said.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, email@example.com, @jajacobs_