Fighting Poverty with Passion
My name is Jabari and I have the awesome opportunity to serve at Grow Dat Youth Farm. The past few months have been packed full of fun and adventure. At Grow Dat we envision a vibrant New Orleans where youth and adults transform their communities, their environment and themselves by engaging in the meaningful work of growing healthy food. We launched the pilot year of Grow Dat on February 4th with 13 students hired from New Orleans Charter Math and Science High School. These students were then split into two teams: the field crew and the market crew. On Saturday one team (market team) works in the market preparing produce to be sold at Hollygrove Market & Farm. The other team (field team) works in the field harvesting produce, weeding, planting and maintaining the compost pile and attending to other critical tasks. We are growing mustard greens, kale, arugula, tomatoes, hot peppers, and much more. Sixty percent of what we grow is sold at Holly Grove’s farmers market and forty percent is donated.
We are currently growing at the Hollygrove Market and Farm because our permanent site is under construction. Our permanent site is a four acre plot located in City Park near the Pan America stadium. Architecture students from Tulane University are building our office buildings out of reused shipping containers. This fall we plan to have about one acre of our new site going into production.
Aside from gardening we have also gone on educational field trips with the students. We have visited Whole Food’s on numerous occasions for a tour of the store and cooking classes. I am gracious for this experience because I have been exposed to foods and recipes that I never knew existed. I have learned how to cook numerous items such as salmon, crab cakes, and kale just to name a few. Exposure to these new recipes will help me shed some of my bad eating habits and improve my health.
Our students are also encouraged to participate in public speaking and team building activities that teach them valuable life skills. For example, our students were at the French Quarter Festival promoting Grow Dat. In the near future they will be participating in the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Earlier this month we went canoeing and on a high ropes course with Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program. I saw with a big sigh of relief, everyone made it home safely. A good feeling that engulfs me at the end of the day knowing that I was able to help the students over come fears that they were seemingly born with.
I am proud to say that we are changing and improving our environment one seed at a time!
– Jabari Brown, AmeriCorps VISTA Visit Grow Dat Youth Farm, to learn more about their outreach program and volunteer opportunities.