All posts by Karen Lally

Morgan Stanley Brings Sunshine to Our Gardens

IMG_1358 (1)

Summer is now upon us! As educators have come to know, the warm weather signals not only some well deserved vacation time, but also an opportunity to catch up with projects that were put on the back burner during the busy school year. Last week, two teams from Morgan Stanley volunteered with CommunityGrows staff to help us out with our summer projects in the gardens at Rosa Parks and Buchanan Mall.

IMG_1377
IMG_1433
IMG_1419

The day, which started out chilly and overcast, brightened up just in time for the start of the workday! During introductions, the two teams got to know each other with a creative icebreaker that tested both a person’s observations and descriptive skills as well as their artistic ability. In pairs of two, each person was asked to describe an object in nature to their partner who, in turn, was asked to draw the object being described to them. This exercise, one we also use in garden classes to help students focus and sharpen their own observation skills, often produces some interesting — and in some cases, entertaining — pieces of artwork.

IMG_1413

Following introductions, the large crew was broken down into two task forces. The first team headed over to the gardens at Rosa Parks Elementary School, where in-school garden lessons are taught. During the course of the day this team harvested vegetables, weeded the garden beds, turned the compost bins, and helped with general maintenance and planting projects. And they did an awesome job!

IMG_1404
IMG_1425

The other team remained at Buchanan Mall working on beautification projects. In addition to planting, weeding, watering, and picking up trash, this team also created journals for the students who will be joining us for the summer session. Students use these journals to draw and label plants and to reflect on their time in the garden. The volunteers even added their own creative flair to the journals, taking clippings from the nearby plants to make the journals special for the students. Everything looked beautiful!

IMG_1393
IMG_1387

In addition to their time and energy in the garden, Morgan Stanley also raised funds for our BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) program. As a group, their donation will go to support and cover the stipend of one BEETS member during the upcoming fall session.

On behalf of the staff at CommunityGrows, we want to thank Morgan Stanley for their support and engagement in both our programs and this workday! The gardens look wonderful, and their actions have set the stage for another great year with our students.

Three Cheers for the Green Team!

Green Team Members and Volunteers at Rosa Parks Salad Day – 3.14.2018
Green Team Members and Volunteers at Rosa Parks Salad Day – 3.14.2018

As the school year comes to a close, we want to share our gratitude and highlight the Rosa Parks Green Team.

This group of parents are incredible advocates for CommunityGrows’ programs at Rosa Parks Elementary School. They work behind the scenes on fundraising and outreach projects, they’re instrumental in planning and implementing monthly Salad Days with us, and they host garden workdays for Rosa Parks families and neighboring communities. We cannot thank them enough for all of their support and dedication!

The coming school year will bring some transitions within the Green Team, as their current lead member Jocelyn graduates after four years with the group. Green Team member Mie is excited to step into the role, and was kind enough to sit down and talk to us about her involvement with the program. 

Mie has been involved with the Green Team for the last three years. She was initially drawn to participate because of how they combined food, health, and the outdoors all in one program. She enjoys working with a program that engages all the students in the school and finds it rewarding to see the kids hugging the chickens, eating salad, and creating beautiful spaces on campus.

RP Student in Lower Garden with Butterfly Wings

On the role of the garden spaces at Rosa Parks Elementary, Mie says that the visual impact changes the feel of the campus, softening and beautifying the outdoor spaces. Accessible and inviting, all of the students get a chance to experience the garden classrooms each year during our seven-week environmental education and nutrition courses. Mie believes that eating well is a skill that all children should have the opportunity to learn, and that being able to see, taste, and learn from our Garden Educator, Anna, helps to get kids excited about the material they are being taught.

NF10

For Mie, one of the best parts about being on Green Team are the weekend workdays. She is inspired by the dedication from the parents, some whom even stay late to finish projects! The bonding that happens at these events, in addition to the actual work done, strengthens the community identity at Rosa Parks. See photos from the Green Team’s latest workday below.

Rosa Parks Workday – 4.28.2018

IMG_1034
Mie's Daughter
Brothers
IMG_1091
IMG_1082
IMG_1127
IMG_1049
IMG_1044
IMG_1064

CommunityGrows gives three cheers for the Rosa Parks Green Team!

The BEETS: Not Just Gardeners

BEETS Build 2

In addition to their culinary, resume designing, gardening, and teaching skills, the BEETS added construction to their accomplishments this month!

BEETS Build 1

Our Rosa Parks Garden Educator Anna led the BEETS in the build, explaining about how ensure the wood was flush and how to properly use the drill.

BEETS Build 6
BEETS Build 5

For many, this was a new experience — but for others, their skill at construction earned them the nickname Drill Sergeant (we appreciate the pun).

BEETS Build 10

Did you know that redwood is the best wood to use on raised garden boxes? It is less susceptible to rot and can last as long as 20 years.

BEETS Build 3

Though the planter was complete, the work was not done yet!

BEETS Build 7
BEETS Build 4

The BEETS team then shoveled compost and soil and moved it into the newly finished planter box, in preparation for the following week’s community planting.

BEETS Build 8
BEETS Build 9

All in all, it was another productive day outside for the BEETS!

We want to give a special thanks to Broadmoor Landscape Supply in South San Francisco for donating the compost, to Ashby Lumber for donating the lumber, and to U-Haul for donating a truck for the afternoon.

CG Volunteers: Always in Bloom

Buchanan Mall Workday – 6.9.2017
Buchanan Mall Workday – 6.9.2017

In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Week, we want to give a shout-out and a thank you to all of the neighbors, partners, businesses, and friends who have supported CG this past year. We could not do our work without your help, and we appreciate all of our volunteers for their time, their energy, and their commitment to our programs.

Read on to learn more about our volunteers and the different ways to get involved at CommunityGrows.

Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018
Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018

Program Volunteers

This year CommunityGrows has had the pleasure of working with 12 dedicated and knowledgeable program volunteers. These volunteers commit at least seven weeks of their time to supporting our programs and can be found in our gardens, offices, and kitchens working on projects that help to support our Environmental Education, Seed to Mouth, and BEETS programs.

CommunityGrows is grateful to have such committed volunteers working with us week after week cooking, weeding, watering, teaching, and working on special projects with our staff and students. Thank you all for your hard work!

image1

Rosa Parks Salad Day – 3.14.2018

Li started volunteering with CommunityGrows this January, helping to maintain the AAACC Garden and assisting with monthly salad days at Rosa Parks Elementary School.

Perhaps most importantly to me, though, was the inspiration and support I drew from the BEETS as I prepared and applied for grad school in a new field — a scary risk for someone in the middle of their career. The struggle of studying for tests, researching scholarships, and searching to find the right path forward in life was made easier because I was able to share and learn from the BEETS, who were all facing similar challenges.  

— Alana, BEETS Program Volunteer 2017-2018

Corporate Volunteers

In addition to our individual volunteers, CommunityGrows is fortunate to also have the support of local businesses and companies committed to giving back to community. This past year GAP, Bain & Co., Morgan Stanley, and Starbucks all participated in one or more workday events in our gardens. Their hard work and energy during the summer and early fall helped us to set the students up for a successful year. We appreciate their support!

Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018
Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018

Weekend Warriors

Finally, we want to highlight all of our weekend workday and special event volunteers who donate their time to move soil, plant vegetables, pick-up trash, turn compost, and do a host of other jobs in our community garden spaces. We couldn’t do it without you!

 

Photo: Gateway High School Workday – 9.29.2017

23601478518_bbe5fa6c1a_o
MLK Day Workday – 1.15.2018
MLK Day Workday – 1.15.2018
Buchanan Mall Workday – 6.9.2017
Buchanan Mall Workday – 6.9.2017

We are so appreciative for the support and community involvement that you all have shown us. Thank you to all of our volunteers, both past and present!

Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018
Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018

A special shout-out to Citizen Film for hosting the latest Buchanan Mall workday on Saturday, April 14th, and to SF Rec & Park, the USF McCarthy Center, the Rosa Parks Senior Center, and all of the volunteers who came out to support and beautify the Mall.

Goodbye to Adrian and Melissa

Adrian and Melissa at a BEETS Orientation

After many years with CommunityGrows, we are saying goodbye to two of our wonderful staff members, Adrian and Melissa. 

While we are sad to see them go, we are so grateful to them both for all of their hard work and dedication! Read on to learn about their time at CG.

The Many Hats of Adrian

AdrianHats3
AdrianHats13
AdrianHats11
AdrianHats15

Adrian wore many hats at CommunityGrows: first as a garden educator, then as a cooking instructor for our Seed to Mouth program, and ultimately overseeing our sites and environmental education programming as Garden Programs Manager.

He took an active and sincere interest in the well-being of his students and encouraged them throughout each session, making him well liked by both the students and staff at John Muir. He shared with us the following story from one of his lessons:

Once, at a Magic Zone class, we harvested fingerling potatoes from the garden. Mwane, a second grader, told me that he was going to go home and cook them with his mother and that they would be the best potatoes in the world.  I told him that he had done a great job helping to grow them and that maybe one day he would be a gardener, which I intended to be a career suggestion.  He looked at me very seriously and replied confidently,  “I already am.”

It is moments like these that demonstrate the confidence that our program is instilling in our youth. These moments are hard to quantify in terms of metrics but are truly priceless in their measurement of the impact we are making.

— Adrian Almquist

His presence at Koshland Garden as both educator and gardener will be missed!

cropped
AdrianHats6
AdrianHats10
AdrianHats

In addition to their roles at CommunityGrows, both Melissa and Adrian were mentors at John Muir Elementary, kept active with the Koshland community gardeners, and often worked with volunteers at weekend events, making Koshland Park and Learning Garden a beautiful and relaxing place for everyone to enjoy.

Melissa in Action

Melissa and a goat
Melissa New Lib 2015
BEETS Pie Ranch 2016
Melissa BEETS Ropes Course

Melissa was also deeply involved at both CommunityGrows and John Muir Elementary, having led our BEETS teen program for four years before becoming Director of Programs in 2017.

Her dedication and leadership of the BEETS program inspired students to set and meet personal and professional goals. At the end of each session, Melissa asked the teens to reflect on their experience participating in the program. 

To me, the garden represents a place for growth and new beginnings. It’s a place where someone can go to learn something new and meet new people. What I enjoyed most was watching things change. I liked seeing how much progress plants make even if we don’t usually see them growing in reality. Like garden, our lives are constantly changing. We don’t recognize change in ourselves but it’s there. We just need to look back to see how much we’ve grown. I think I’ve really improved on my ability to express my opinions. I’ve learned that being part of a group requires a lot of listening and observing, which I’ve improved on greatly. Ultimately, I’ve learned that working doesn’t necessarily need to be just “working” if you find the balance of friendship and responsibility.

— Gene, 2016-2017 BEETS Participant

Garden reflections from Melissa’s students showed steady growth and a shift of perspective when compared to their responses from the start of the program. Her guidance and support made a huge impact during Melissa’s time with CommunityGrows.

Melissa pumpking carginv 2017
Melissa nastertiums
Summer 2013 graduation
Melissa w kids 2013 2

Thank you, Adrian and Melissa! We wish you both the best!

6 Inspiring Women in Science for Women’s History Month

women's history month

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to share the stories of some inspiring women whose contributions have advanced the fields of STEM, biology, nutrition, childhood development, and environmental sciences. We applaud their hard work and commitment to bettering both their communities and the world!

If you want to learn more about these bold women in science, just click on their photos.

Flemmie_Pansy_Kittrell

Flemmie P. Kittrell (1904–1980)

Flemmie P. Kittrell was an academic and a world-traveller, with her research on nutrition, home economics, and childhood development taking her international, most notably to Liberia and India. Her research in Liberia on the effects of malnutrition uncovered a “hidden hunger,” where a person could be full and hungry while still lacking the necessary vitamins and nutrients for development and health. Kittrell was an active member of the American Association of University Women and the first black woman to receive a PhD in nutrition.

Photo: via Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flemmie_Pansy_Kittrell.jpg), Fair Use Rationale

By Smelter Mountain, Flickr, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Isatou Ceesay (1972–Present)

Isatou Ceesay, named the “Queen of Recycling in the Gambia,” has been educating women on waste management and recycling for 17 years and, in 1997, came together with other women in her village to start the Njau Recycling and Income Generating Group. Their story is shared in One Plastic Bag, a book that illustrates how Ceesay and four women creatively recycled trash to make their village cleaner and healthier while earning extra income from their recycled products. Ceesay later co-founded the Women’s Initiative Gambia and won the TIAW “Difference Maker” award in Washington D.C. in 2012.

Photo: Smelter Mountain, Flickr, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Uniformity is not nature’s way; diversity is nature’s way.” 

— Vandana Shiva, environmental activist, author, and food sovereignty advocate

By Eclectek (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

Winona LaDuke (1959–Present)

Winona LaDuke is a writer, activist, and public speaker well known for her environmental advocacy and social justice work. In 2007, LaDuke was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her life’s work in conservation, sustainable development, and renewable energy, as well as her dedication to recovering and preserving Native land and traditional practices. To date, LaDuke has authored seven books, most recently The Winona LaDuke Chronicles: Stories from the Front Lines in the Battle for Environmental Justice in 2016.

Photo: Eclectek (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) 

By Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (500 DM banknote) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717)

Maria Sibylla Merian was a entomologist, naturalist, and artist known for her illustrations of insects and plants during the 1600s. On her expedition to Suriname, South America in 1699, she and her youngest daughter spent several years observing and sketching the native plants and animals in the region. During her lifetime, Merian studied the life-cycles and maturation of many different plant and animals species in Europe and South America, published several volumes of her own illustrations, and has gone on to inspire naturalists and scientists with her observations.

Photo: Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (500 DM banknote) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

— Rachel Carson, marine biologist and writer of Silent Spring

From: Psychology's Feminist Voices https://www.feministvoices.com/mamie-phipps-clark/

Mamie Phipps Clark (1917–1983)

Mamie Phipps Clark was a social psychologist whose early career focused largely on child development and race consciousness in children. While studying at Howard University, Mamie met her husband Kenneth Bancroft Clark, and the two of them would later collaborate on the famous “Doll Test” experiment, used during the Brown v. Board of Education case to show the harmful effects of segregation on children’s self-esteem. In 1946, Clark became the Director of Northside Center in Harlem, which provided psychological services to the city’s minority groups, where she remained until retiring in 1979. 

Photo: via Psychology’s Feminist Voices https://feministvoices.com/mamie-phipps-clark

Antônio Cruz/ABr (Agência Brasil [1]) via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0 br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)]

Wangari Maathai (1940–2011)

Wangari Maathai is a writer, political activist, environmentalist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, awarded to her in 2004 for “’her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace’, the first African woman and environmentalist to win the prize.” In 1977, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an organization which plants trees to support environmental conservation and fight against deforestation. In addition to founding and coordinating GBM, Maathai authored four books, was a member and later chairman of the National Council of Women of Kenya, and was a social activist, serving on the board of many different human rights and environmental organizations.  

Photo: Antônio Cruz/ABr (Agência Brasil [1])  [CC BY 3.0 br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

“We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!”

— Wangari Maathai

BEETS Grow in Our Neighborhood

Buchanan Mall

Spring is in the air and, with all the sunshine, our gardens are flourishing! But the sun isn’t the only reason the gardens are looking so fresh — the BEETS have been out in the gardens planting, watering, weeding, and cleaning to make our spaces more healthy and inviting.

BEETS MLK

Who are the BEETS? Beyond our gardening and cooking programs for younger students, we also offer teens the chance to earn money as they learn life and job skills, experience nature, explore issues of food equity and environmental justice, and improve both their personal well-being and that of their neighborhood and communities.

But our BEETS program extends beyond just a paid after-school position: it’s an opportunity to become a part of a supportive team while working toward personal and professional goals.

Learn more about their stories from a volunteer’s perspective as Alana shares her experience working with the BEETS:

“Alongside the flourishing of the kale and fava beans we planted, I’ve witnessed a different kind of flourishing in the BEETS participants.”

As a volunteer with CommunityGrows’ young adults program, I joined the participants in tending local gardens to help plants grow. My greatest delight in being a part of the program, however, has been in watching the young adults themselves grow. And as I move on to my next chapter in my life, I’m grateful to look back and realize how much the BEETS have helped me grow.

Alongside the flourishing of the kale and fava beans we planted, I’ve witnessed a different kind of flourishing in the BEETS participants. One BEET, after gaining deeper insight into our food system through the program, decided to become a vegetarian. Another makes significant progress in improving her English, an important step toward her goal of becoming a computer programmer. A third inspires me as he continues to save up for a car and ultimately to become a mechanic. All of the BEETS exhibit maturity in following through on their responsibilities as well as thoughtfulness in their discussions.

“The BEETS introduced me to a beautiful side of San Francisco I had never seen before.”

I began volunteering with CommunityGrows to gain hands-on experience with urban agriculture and to give back to the community. To my surprise, the support I received through the BEETS program helped me expand into new areas of personal growth. The BEETS introduced me to a beautiful side of San Francisco I had never seen before. From tucked-away community gardens just blocks from my home, to the nationally-famous garden within the Giants’ Stadium at AT&T Park, alongside the BEETS I learned about the thriving urban agriculture community in San Francisco.

Perhaps most importantly to me, though, was the inspiration and support I drew from the BEETS as I prepared and applied for grad school in a new field – a scary risk for someone in the middle of her career. The struggle of studying for tests, researching scholarships, and searching to find the right path forward in life was made easier because I was able to share and learn from the BEETS, who were all facing similar challenges. Though I’m now moving on to get that degree the young adults motivated me to keep pursuing, I’ll carry with me the memories of these inspiring youth and the lessons they taught me.

— Alana, BEETS Program Volunteer 2017-18

BEETS Giants

We’d like to take a moment to appreciate all that Alana, BEETS Program Manager Osceola, and the BEETS themselves have accomplished through this session — from their work in the garden to cooking at the Giants Garden at AT&T Park, to touring Alcatraz, and helping teach younger students. This group has already had an active year, and it’s not over yet!

Yoga and Salad in the Lower Garden

Rosa Parks Students

Finding Inner Peas: Yoga in the Gardens

A new tradition has begun at Rosa Parks as students join Seed-to-Mouth Garden Educator, Annie, for weekly yoga sessions in the Lower Garden. The kids have fun choosing Yoga Pretzel cards for the group to achieve, cards which illustrate common yoga poses and encourage health and wellness for the body and mind.

Loving Salad From My Head To-ma-toes

Students at Rosa Parks were treated this month to an impromptu salad day thanks to all of the extra veggies in the gardens. Due to the warm weather and sunny days this Fall, the garden plots are thriving with excess produce filling the beds. Wanting to avoid waste, Annie was inspired to create a spontaneous salad treat, complete with homemade croutons she made the night before! Students loved the salad and the entire bowl was finished in just over 20 minutes.

LG2

Official Salad Days at Rosa Parks started up again this month with the support of the dedicated Green Team!

Four-Ingredient Homemade Croutons

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of cubed bread
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit.
  • In a bowl, combine cubed bread, garlic powder, and salt. Drizzle olive oil over bread while stirring. Stir well until bread is coated by all ingredients and olive oil is absorbed.
  • Spread bread cubes into an even layer on a sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
crouton2
LG1

Good Times in the Garden

Besides yoga and salad days, students are also becoming involved in the Lower Garden by helping with watering, weeding, pruning, litter clean-up, and maintenance. Since the start of the school year, the gardens have transformed thanks to the time and energy put in by students, teachers, and staff. With the vibrant mural and the beautiful greens, the space has become a calming and welcoming place for the students to spend time.

What a Transformation!

July 2017

36465668676_c1ba04b560_o

December 2017

image5

#MLKDay of Service: Honoring Dr. King

Holiday Wreath and Card Making
MLK1

Make it a day on, not a day off. This was the rallying phrase as thousands of people across the U.S. turned out on Monday, January 15th, to celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. The day of service began nearly 25 years ago, after Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act of 1994. The day is meant to honor the dedicated and passionate service that Dr. King gave to both his community and to the nation as a whole.

Corporation for National and Community Services. Leading the Day of Service efforts, the CNCS writes that the initiative “empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Taking Part in the Celebration. On Monday, CommunityGrows joined the African American Arts and Culture Complex, Citizen Film, and 3.9 Art Collective for our own day of service. The morning started with breakfast and an amazing performance by Brandon Hughes titled, “Imagine King Was Here.” Following his performance, Acting Mayor London Breed gave a moving speech about the importance of taking ownership of and building up our communities. After some final remarks from the AAACC Co-Executive Directors Melonie and Melorra Green, volunteers divided into three groups to complete projects to beautify the community.

 

Community Projects. One group joined the 3.9 Art Collective to create art for seniors, one group joined Citizen Film to clean up and plant in the Buchanan Mall, and one group joined CommunityGrows to weed and lay stones in the AAACC garden. The day ended with a barbeque and social hour in the parking lot.

20180115_110108
Photos: Sophie Constantinou at Citizen Film
Photos: Sophie Constantinou at Citizen Film
Photo: Sophie Constantinou at Citizen Film
Photo: Sophie Constantinou at Citizen Film
20180115_103222

Thank You. We at CommunityGrows want to thank all the volunteers who showed up and continue to support our programs and organization! We also want to give a shout-out to Broadmoor Landscape Supply for donating the rocks for our garden and to the AAACC, Citizen Film, and 3.9 Art Collective for a successful event!

Thanks again to everyone who volunteered to serve the community!

Martin Luther King, Jr., from: Nobel Foundation (http://nobelprize.org/) [Public domain]. Wikimedia Commons.

Deck the Halls with Wreaths

Holiday4

Over the weekend neighbors and friends gathered together for the 14th annual wreath and card making event at the Hayes Valley South Community Room. Beautiful wreaths were created by all, with ribbon, trinkets, glitter, and bells adorning each and every one!

Holiday3.1

Joining the festivities were the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens), a program designed to teach students ages 15-19 about environmental issues and help them to develop job skills.

While many will hang their wreaths on doors and walls this holiday season, some creative thinkers are now wearing holly-themed necklaces. Either way, the wreaths look great!

Holiday5

A special thanks to the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association for donating to make this event a success. It was a lovely afternoon with the wreaths, cards, cider, and good company. Thank you for all who attended and happy holidays!

Holiday2

See more photos from the event here!