Throughout the fall and concluding months of 2011, PUC has had the wonderful opportunity to work with students from schools throughout the Philadelphia area to develop Life Do Grow and prepare for the winter frost. These partnerships have proved to be inspirational and empowering for all involved. These groups have helped us with so many projects on the farm, and we have facilitated interactive workshops with them to help them analyze the deep interconnection between the socio-economic and environmental issues facing our communities and understand the relevance of our work so that they can become more deeply immersed in our initiatives.
Bellow is descriptions of our recent partnerships with these various groups.
A. Philip Randolph Career Academy
From October – December, PUC was granted the wonderful opportunity to partner with A. Phillip Randolph Career Academy, a school where students are allowed to successfully complete high school while attaining sufficient academic credits and vocational skills to pursue post secondary education and enter the work force with vital experience. With the unconditional support and help of the principal Daryl Overton and the construction instructor Mr. Pikunas (Mr. P) we were able to build same amazing structures on the land. Mr. P and a group of ten seniors from Randolph were able to design and construct a tool shed and our very first greenhouse for their senior project and community service requirement to graduate.
Together, we built this tool shed and greenhouse that will be a tremendous necessity during winter months. The toolshed is made entirely out of scrap lumbar that we collected from a house demolition, and wooden pallets collected from a seemingly endless pallet graveyard in New Jersey.
The greenhouse structure is made out of reclaimed lumbar, and plastic covering, reused chicken wire, and recycled plastic bottles, and is designed with a 10 degrees angle roof so that we can collect rainwater and eventually install solar panels to energy generate for an aquaponic system. We are also composting inside and around the greenhouse to generate heat during the winter months.
This partnership has allowed North Philadelphia high school students to create a structure that will provide healthy, locally grown food to other residents of this community year round. There has also been opportunity for residents of the neighborhood to meet and greet Randolph students while they constructed the greenhouse. The work that the students at Randolph have performed is only the beginning of long standing relationship. We are excited about the spring season and to continue to build with Mr. P and his wonderful students!
Crossroads Accelerated Academy & Elverson Military Academy
Two of our most local and committed school partners are Crossroads and Elverson Military Academies. Located just 4 blocks south of LDG, 4 groups of students have rotated in and out of the farm each week. We have developed strong relationships with these two schools in order to engage their students in the overall development of LDG, and as a way for teachers to integrate our farm into their classroom curricula as hands on teaching tools.
These students have volunteered with such energy and enthusiasm as they helped us clear 150 square feet of our expanding garden space, convert food scraps into compost, enhance our rain catchment system, and cover the green house erected by A.P. Randolph. They have also deeply engaged in our workshops, and many have shown interest in becoming young organizers in PUC in the future.
Sankofa Rights of Passage Program
The partnership between Sankofa and PUC happened very organically. Organizers Brother Fuahz and Jeaninne met at a local open mic. They shared ideas and decided that the forces they both work with should combine. Sankofa is a rights of passage program operating in 8 high schools in North Philadelphia. The program is specifically targeted for young African American and Afro Latino men as a way of connecting them more deeply to their roots and empowering them to become young leaders. It teaches that in order to become a man, according to African tradition, there is much knowledge to gain. Some of the Sankofa courses include African drumming, spoken word, and various ancient martial arts. Upon the partnership with PUC we are now trying to work on land cultivation as an addition to their courses.
During the summer, Sankofa devoted a generous amount of volunteer time to PUC as apart of their summer program. And in October, we were fortunate enough to host their opening ceremonies at our farm. The ceremony consisted of over 200 young men from the 8 schools affiliated with the program, as well as staff and school district officials. These groups collectively performed their mantra, and spent the day rotating between different orientation stations which included drumming circles, self expression and spoken word, and PUC’s own cultivation workshop where we discussed the importance of harvesting our own food as a way of connecting to our roots and harvesting ourselves and our communities.
It was very inspiring for PUC to witness and host this special occasion. The relationship between us has a strong foundation and lots of room for growth into the future.
Temple and Villanova Universities
Throughout the semester, students from both Temple and Villanova universities have volunteered at the farm. Some of these students came with classes, to fulfill community service credits or service-learning requirements, as apart of school days of service, or simply because they heard about PUC’s initiatives and came out to support. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we were fortunate enough to have a huge turnout of eager students from Villanova to work with us on our day of service and remembrance.
Together, these groups have done an amazing job helping us clear weeds and brush as well as the area on which our greenhouse now sits, insulating the greenhouse, and placing down mulch throughout the space where we plan to expand our garden this spring. It has been wonderful to watch these group work together with members of our community and with youth from throughout Philadelphia, all while having a good time giving back to the community and our collective environment. It is so important that we begin to find healthy, organic ways of integrating the populations of the various universities throughout our city with the communities that surround their campus’…..particularly in North Philadelphia.