While transitioning into spring, strong partnerships have continued to lay the foundation for PUC’s expansion. Bellow are descriptions of some more of these ever evolving relationships that define the diverse movement we are all working together to build.
1) Our Community: With the arrival of warmer weather, young people from throughout our neighborhood have flocked to the farm to participate in our after school activities. Kids of ALL ages have begun to spend almost every day with us helping to plant the first seeds of the new season, expand the garden, paint, and just hang out. While they have been with us, we have made sure to engage them in a variety of reading, writing, and math activities such as practicing reading and spelling the names of the seeds we are planting or measuring the lay out of the farm, or calculate the price of our crops. While relatively informal now, these small interactions are the beginnings of what is evolving into our after school program where we will help students grasp the concepts that they are learning in school through hands-on activities on the farm.
On April 1st, we held another community block party which was a HUGE SUCCESS! Dozens of the children and their families came out to enjoy the day that was filled with music, snacks, seed planting, weed clearing, face and mural painting, and even some horse back riding!
Weather big or small, each of these daily interactions contribute to making our program more and more community based. The families of the children that are with us each day have an increasingly invested interest in the project, and the kids themselves are turning into spectacular young leaders on the farm!
2) Education Works & Heartranft’s After School Program: Every wednesday afternoon, students from Education Work’s after school program at Heartranft middle school (our neighborhood public school) have joined us at the farm. They have been a huge help as we have transitioned into spring, and we have trained these students to be expert composters, recyclers, seed and seedling planters, and even young community organizers. As a result of this blossoming partnership, these students are now applying all that they have learned with us to their own school campus where they are now managing their own garden!
This is really exciting for us because it is the first step in the overall direction that our overall program is headed. The goal of all of the relationships the we develop with local schools, organizations, and neighbors, is to empower them to initiate their own projects. The start of this groups garden is a perfect example of the effectiveness of this model where we host volunteers, train them, and send them back to their communities to with the skill set to export this overall vision and lead their own movements towards self sustainability.
3) Fairhill Housing Cooking Class: For the past several months, we have assisted Tara Anastasi of Foundations, Inc., with a cooking class at the Fairhill high-rise community center across the street. Every Thursday, PUC organizers help Miss Tara to teach children from the Fairhill Apartments how to make such tasty treats as salsa, quesadillas, spring rolls, scrambled eggs, pancakes, muffins, and hummus.
The kids sure love making and finally eating their creations, and we have lots of fun helping them! And Once our crops are ready to harvest, the class will purchase and prepare produce right from the farm! Because of the energy generated from this program, these students now also spend one day a week with us at the farm, where we are training them with the basic skills to start their own garden in the court yard of the high rises.
4) GrassROOTS Foundation: This year we had the honor of establishing a partnership with the GrassRoots foundation, an organization that focuses on teaching nutrition and mental wellness to young women of color in inner-city communities across the nation. The organization was founded by Dr. Janice Dias and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter from The Legendary Roots crew.
For our first collaboration, we were asked to cater a community event and fundraiser hosted by the GrassRoots Foundation, where we served fresh and healthy snacks to the patrons of their Fundraiser. In the morning, we participated in a community meeting with the GrassRoots staff, Tariq, Mayor Nutter, the C.H.I.C.K.S. program, and other organizers and representatives from throughout the city, and at night attended an awesome concert and dance party with legendary performers from Philadelphia including Dj Rich Medina , Dj Diamond Kuts, and Quest Love and Black thought from the Roots. At both events, we served our very own Salsa made from produce from the farm, along with Hummus made by the students in the Fairhill Cooking class and Quiche made by students in A.P. Randolph’s Culinary program.
This was a great opportunity to network and market our project to an entirely new community filled with musicians, doctors, activists, organizers, and people of all professions. The event was a great success and we got lots of fees back and encouragement from so many adults. It was an amazing day, and the start to what we hope to be a long lasting partnership with the GrassRoots Foundation. We hope to provide their C.H.I.C.K.S program with our food and teach them how to bring a community garden to their school, and help youth throughout Philadelphia learn the importance of maintaining a healthy life style while empowering them with the tools and resources to create these healthy environments for themselves and their communities.
For more info on GrassRoots Go to www.GrassRootsfoundation.Org
5) Growing Power INC (round 2):
This April, six PUC organizers that were blessed with the opportunity to go to Growing Power INC’s weekend workshop for the second straight year. Growing Power is one of the nations largest urban agricultural programs, and located in one of Milwaukee’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. We spent the weekend taking workshops, sharing ideas, and talking with other farmers and environmental justice organizers. Members of PUC learned the art of bee keeping, community project design, cultivating mushrooms, and instilling renewable energy. We ate from the richest vegetable, used honey and drank milk made by Growing Power themselves!
The power of learning from another organization that has successfully implemented the art of food production as well as community involvement is true inspiration, and it is now our job to take the skills that we learned from Growing Power and utilize them to empower the youth and residents of Philadelphia. This weekend sparked new energy and innovation from this transformative weekend with Will Allen and staff! We are excited to continue to grow, learn, eat, and educate the people of Philadelphia.
6) Sedexo Foundation: In February, we received word that PUC is one of the recipients of the Sedexo Foundation’s STOP Hunger grant for $5,000! This is the largest grant we have won, and it is going to be a huge boost to our initiatives as we enter the summer. On April 25th, the Sedexo crew joined us at the farm to meet us and film us for a short film they are making about PUC’s work with local food production and education in North Philly. This short film will be available in June.
7) Philadelphia Former Gang Member Association & Friends: Finally, one of our longest partnerships has begun to blossom. For the past 3 years, PUC has attended community meetings hosted by the Philadelphia Former Gang Member Association; an organization also founded in 2009-10 by ex-offenders and former Philadelphia Gang members. The Association has worked diligently to bring many different organizations together to collectively provide ex-offenders with support while re-entering society, with opportunities to give back to and inspire peace in their communities, and to mentor “at risk” youth to keep them from falling into similar paths. After several years of these meetings, strong partnerships are being forged, a unified vision is starting to emerge, and together, this network beginning to empower segments of these neglected populations to more effectively navigate the systems that restrict their social mobility, and participate in the movement to reinvent them from the ground-up.