The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Grow Dat Youth Farm
In a city that is perhaps the country’s most culturally rich, it is a bit surprising that the large city park in its heart is called, well, City Park. But don’t mistake the generic name for a place devoid of special activity. Indeed, at the heart of New Orleans City Park is the much more colorfully named Grow Dat Youth Farm, which is developing a sense of responsibility, community, environmental stewardship and service among city high school kids through the collaborative work of growing food.
Grow Dat grew out of a partnership developed between the Tulane University City Center, the New Orleans Food and Farm Network, and City Park. It’s program is pretty sophisticated. From Grow Dat’s website:
“The farm works with several high schools and youth organizations throughout New Orleans to recruit a diverse and committed group of youth who develop leadership and life skills during their intensive, hands-on work experience. Through a structured application process, Grow Dat conscientiously recruits a mix of students: 20% of whom have already demonstrated leadership skills inside or outside of school, 20% of whom are at- risk of poor performance at school, and 60% of whom are students that are neither excelling nor failing at school. Programmatic success is defined by students’ consistent participation in the program, their increased ability to communicate effectively with other students and staff, and their ability to achieve production goals on the farm . . .
“Over the 19-week program, youth participants learn a variety of skills related to growing, cooking and selling organic vegetables and fruit. Full time Grow Dat staff have created a curriculum that includes lessons on sustainable agriculture, cooking, communication and team- building, economics, nutrition and community health, food systems, and the agricultural history of our region.”
The students must commit to a work schedule, for which they are paid. In addition to the work they perform on site, they are expected to take their experience to the larger community:
“Working in rotating teams, students take on the responsibility for selling food at farmers’ markets and preparing food for homeless or underserved populations. In addition to these hands-on activities, students also participate in a highly-structured system for enhancing their communication skills called ‘Real Talk’. . . In addition to improved communication skills, students are also trained on time management, effective strategies for team work, and public speaking–all skills that can be broadly applied in future jobs.”
The farm enjoys a central location accessible by public transportation. It is located on a four-acre site in City Park, with two acres of cultivable land.
Grow Dat’s most recent quarterly report notes the friendly competition that the students have had at a local farmers’ market to see which crew could sell out first, and also that every kid had the opportunity to prepare and serve their produce at a free monthly breakfast hosted at a local church. Over three months they served more than 300 meals, learning “important, and sometimes surprising, lessons about what the face of hunger in our community looks like.”
With the assistance of the Tulane School of Architecture, buildings on the site have been designed to serve the program. The campus includes green building innovations for the facilities, including an outdoor classroom, a teaching kitchen, locker rooms, administrative offices and large post-harvest handling areas.
The students have grown more than 7,000 pounds of food, donating a third to needy families; still under development, Grow Dat hopes to produce up to 40,000 pounds by 2014. So far every participant has reported satisfaction with the development of leadership and work skills. Watch this great video about the farm and its program, and hear the kids talk about their experiences:
Visit EcoWatch’s SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Fino Menezes
Everyone adores dolphins. Intelligent, inquisitive and playful, these special creatures have captivated humans since the dawn of time. But dolphins didn't get to where they are by accident — they needed to develop some pretty amazing superpowers to cope with their environment.
By Charli Shield
At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.
By Elizabeth Henderson
Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced: