On Saturday November 5, 2016 CommunityGrows held a workday in Koshland Garden to celebrate our partnership with Avila & Associates, and Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF). Avila and Associates provides provides civil engineering, environmental services, and water resources engineering services to public agencies at the federal, state and local level; private property owners; civil engineering professionals and other professional service firms. One of the many environmental services they provide is field surveys and regulatory reporting. Leanne Feely-Botanist, Sarah Flaherty-Wildlife Biologist, and Rachel Spadafore-Ecologist/Senior Project Manager, all participants in the workday, do this research. They talked with many of the BEETS about what they do and how they are working to save different endangered species. Here they are with volunteer Janine Kaiser. The morning started with introductions and welcomes from staff members Jay Jordan, Garden Educator, and Melissa Tang, BEETS Program Manager. Then people commenced to flipping compost, trellising peas, weeding the mustard and strawberry beds, collecting leek seeds, thinning radishes and preparing bed for the BEETS to plant starts. Lots of Jerusalem Artichokes, onions, collards, kale and herbs were also harvested. Sarah Penney-CommunityGrows Advisory Board member, Emily Danford-CommunityGrows office/communications volunteer, and three wonderful students from University High School (Judith Edwards, Joley Costa, and Nicole Cuthbert) also helped out in the garden. At 1:00 PM the volunteers were joined by a group of youth from Friends of the Urban Forest, who led a workshop in pruning trees. Alex Javier, Education Coordinator for FUF, talked about the essentials of pruning and tree care, the types of cuts to make, proper pruning techniques, and equipment safety. Then the youth went off to the orchard to trim back and prune the fruit trees. It was an amazing workday with lots of knowledge gained about the environmental field and how to care for the earth through the pruning of trees. Thank you Avila & Associate and Friends of the Urban Forest for a very engaging and worthwhile day. For more photos, check out our Flickr Photostream here.
On Saturday October 22, 2016 our new cohort of BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) spent the day at Ft Miley/Lands End in San Francisco doing a ropes course from 9-4 PM. The event was hosted by the Pacific Leadership Institute of the Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Department of San Francisco State University. Our goal for the day was to have fun, learn something new about ourselves & others, challenge ourselves, and develop trust & teamwork skills. It was a great event to bond the new BEETS and get them ready for the rest of the year! The ropes course was a challenging outdoor personal development and team building activity which consisted of high and low elements, taking place on the ground and also in trees. The morning started out with team building and working together to solve problems. These fun activities were all intended to build trust and create team work. In the afternoon the teens got to use belays for safety when they were instructed carefully by the Ropes Course crew. Belaying refers to a variety of techniques climbers use to exert tension on a climbing rope so that a falling climber does not fall very far. A climbing partner typically applies tension at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, and removes the tension from the rope whenever the climber needs more rope to continue climbing. Here are some reflections of the day:
“Going from rope to rope felt like me taking a risk in real life. It was there in front of me, but I was too scared to let go of my safety line. But I eventually did it and I hope I can do that in real life with my goals, as I was able to go farther when taking the next rope.”
“Before I would do mostly everything by myself because I believe that I can get by with anything without anyone. Today I learned that I actually need people to support me to keep going and friends to help me reach the goal.”
“Today’s course taught me that we should never give up and always face the challenges we will meet in our life…”It is hoped that the teens will keep talking about their experiences from the day and revisiting the learning they took away. Hopefully they will incorporate these experiences into their daily lives. For many more photos, check out our Flickr Photostream here.
On Thursday, August 11th CommunityGrows staff tabled for a lunch-time resource fair at Lincoln High School for San Francisco Unified School District SFUSD science teachers as part of a professional development day. It was a chance for middle and high school science teachers to learn about other resources available to them, and field trips for their students. Our CommunityGrows exhibit focused on the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens. Kelly ErnstFriedman, Director of Programs and Ivan Gladamez, one of our graduated BEETS talked with teachers about CommunityGrows opportunities.
On July 29, 2016 The Civic Leadership Institute (CLI) youth made their second year visit to CommunityGrows as part of their summer site at UC Berkeley. The Civic Leadership Institute (CLI) is a three-week summer service-learning program for outstanding high school students throughout the world who are completing grades 9 through 12. The program combines hands-on education, meaningful service, powerful speakers and seminars, and an unforgettable residential experience for a summer that students describe as “life-changing.”
The Civic Leadership Institute is a collaboration between the Civic Education Project, based at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, and Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. These youth joined our Summer BEETS cohort to work at Rosa Parks Elementary School gardens. Some of the countries represented were South Korea, Germany, Jamaica and Thailand. We started the day off with an opening circle where each group talked about who they are and what they do. Then the BEETS led an icebreaker, “Biggest Fan”, which is a rock, paper, scissors tournament. We did a lot of weeding, mulching, clearing out the chicken coop, soil blocking and organized the shed. Then we ended the day with a closing circle of what we learned or will walk away with. A great time with youth from around the world. Thank you for joining us!
Written by Melissa Tang, BEETS Program Manager
What exactly is food? If food doesn’t nurture you as a person then it’s really not food. Yet there’s a lot of things being sold in grocery and corner stores that claim to be food but have no nourishment. That’s why the BEETS have been eagerly waiting for the the Rooted in Community (RIC) California Youth Food Justice Summit at Pie Ranch. On July 14th, youth from Northern California came together to teach one another about food justice issues and to have a lot of fun!
The event started with an opening ceremony with Val Lopez of the Amah Mutson tribe. Then the BEETS got a chance to explore different workshops held by other youth groups. There were over 10 workshops so it was hard to choose! The first stop was the screen printing and youthzine workshop led by Project EAT. Here we created re-usuable bags out of old t-shirts or created a bandana and screen printed a design made by the youth of Project EAT.
Then we took a tour of Pie Ranch and were delighted by the many farm animals like pigs, cows, chickens and goats. In the afternoon, the BEETS stopped by the workshop led by Project EAT at Tennyson High School where we made flower crowns to take home. Some other workshops that the BEETS attended were Food as Activism where we explored how different social movements used food to bring about change, like the Black Panthers. All youth came together at the power healing circle where youth had an open mic to share their stories of how they got involved with food justice and to speak what’s on their mind. Many courageous youth stepped up to the mic in front of 100+ people to share their stories of resilience and what they want to see in the future. Some our BEETS stepped out of their comfort zone to speak up. One shared that the summit and that working for CommunityGrows has taught her that she doesn’t have to be a product of her environment, and that she can be someone who helps to bring about change. This was inspirational, powerful and moving! Our evening ended with food of course! A delicious tamale dinner with salad and dessert completed our journey to Pie Ranch. With a nourished mind, body, and soul, we hopped back in the van and drove back home. Thank you to all but a special shout out to Pie Ranch and Food What!? for organizing and to Boys and Girls Club at Willie Mays for sharing transportation with us.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has partnered with the CommunityGrows for the third year in a row to support our BEETS Program! This year, the PUC is supporting us as we pilot an amazing project with Plaza East Apartments to build patio gardens for the residents and teach them about water conservation. We’re really excited about this project because it will give our BEETS valuable experience planning and executing a landscaping project while also creating more green spaces and vegetable gardens for the community. Thank you PUC!
On Saturday, July 16, 2016 CommunityGrows hosted a youth day for urban agriculture for Bay Area teens at Alemany Farm. These eco-literacy teen groups included Pie Ranch, Friends of the Urban Forest, Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ), Urban Sprouts, and the Cultural Conservancy. They came together to celebrate each other’s work, and discuss their hopes, dreams, and visions for a more just, sustainable and peaceful world. After some ice-breaking activities that were loads of fun, Brandi Mack, of the Black Permaculture network lead an hour-long discussion and exploration about Permaculture, especially how it relates to youth of color today. Her talk was about how “Everything is in the Garden”, honoring the earth for our heritages and ancestors. A delicious lunch was offered of hummus wraps, salads (provided by CommunityGrows), roasted veggie (harvested from Alemany Farm), and hot dogs, buns and sauerkraut (provided by the Cultural conservancy), and dessert. After lunch there were breakout sessions to make medicine bundles (workshop lead by the Cultural Conservancy), a mobile nursery transplanting activity (organized by LEJ), sketching of plants, making origami and other work activities throughout the farm. This event was sponsored by Aetna Corporation, Nature’s Voices Project, and numerous CommunityGrows donors including Angelique Farrow, Steve Allen, Pam Jackson, Nancy Osborne Almquist, Avni Desai, Chuck Gould, Yvonne Koshland, Leah Cerri, and Christine Pielenz.
The BEETS go to Yosemite and meet Shelton Johnson to learn about the Buffalo Soldiers!
Read all about it with a first-hand report from one of our BEETS intern, Ivan Galdamez below:
Yosemite BackyardBound camping trip is a memory that will forever be ingrained into my life. The 3-day camping trip was an amazing experience filled with activities, beautiful sights and leisure time. The main focus of our visit to Yosemite was learning about the Buffalo Soldiers and the difficulties they faced. Crissy Field Center’s Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (IYEL) program hosted the trip and four other organizations attended: New Leaf, Bay-Peace, the Green Rangers (a Youth Stewardship Program of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, and CommunityGrows. New friends and great experiences.
On Wednesday, June 22, around 8:30 AM at Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy Crissy Field Center, IYEL led a couple of ice-breakers to help solidify friendships and meet new people so everyone could enjoy the trip as much as possible. Every group listed their hopes and fears for the trip. Around 10:30 AM the charter buses arrived and everyone received a free water bottle for trip. You can feel the excitement and anticipation people had. The air was filled with positive energy and made the trip a wonderful experience.
After four hours of resting on the bus, we entered Yosemite National Park and the minute you look out of the bus windows you are greeted by the beautiful mountains above us and the elegant river rapids below us. It was such a beautiful view to wake up to. It filled me with euphoria and made me reminisce back to the very first time I went camping and how much I enjoyed the national parks.
Upon arriving to the Yellow Pine VIP campground, we were greeted by a friendly and enthusiastic park ranger named Shelton Johnson, the man who wrote the book Gloryland and met President Barack Obama the week before. He had so much pride in the National Park it even rubbed off on us. After showing us to our site, he huddled everyone together into a tight crowd around him and began speaking of the legendary Buffalo Soldiers. Shelton made it his mission to spread the word of the Buffalo Soldiers and inspire all youth from different backgrounds to stand up for what they believe in. The speech he made on the Buffalo Soldiers was a very inspiring story on how African Americans defended the National Parks before the National Park Rangers were established.
After the introduction with Shelton, we set up camp, made the tents, and put away our luggage and started some fun activities. Around 6 PM, IYEL interns prepped dinner by cooking sausages and even had vegetarian options, which I thought was very thoughtful. After dinner the IYEL took us on a mini 20-minute hike to a beautiful riverside where we crossed via bridge and began to play a game. The game was meant as another way to get everyone comfortable with each other and it was very effective because everyone was having a great time and everyone participated. My fellow co-worker, Alejandro, told me how much fun he was having during the game and enjoyed the walk.
After playing the game, we walked back to the campsite to get ready for bed and I shared a tent with my co-workers Alejandro and Carlos. It was a unique experience because we talked about each other’s interests, hobbies, and life goals while sharing personal stories that helped us grow closer as a community (now I see why my group is called CommunityGrows! Ha! Ha!).
It is Thursday, June 23, and everyone woke up around 7 AM. We had to prepare for a long, active day that included volunteer work and workshops. After breakfast, we split into two random groups, with different people across the 5 organizations that joined the trip. Carlos, Linda, and two CommunitGrows staff (Cha’Shay and Jay) picked up trash near Yosemite Falls.
Community Grows staff Melissa, Alejandro, and I were put in a different group with 10 other people from the various organizations. We would play “competition” games that symbolized different hardships the Buffalo Soldiers faced. An IYEL intern would lead each game. We played a fishing game first and what we had to do was craft a toy fishing pole with PVC pipe, string, tape, and a magnet. After, we would go and collect as many magnets (fish) within 10 minutes. The purpose of the game was to symbolize the way Buffalo Soldiers caught food while defending the National Parks. When that game ended, we switched over to a table where we played blackjack, and gambled with the currency the IYEL intern provided which consisted of cards labeled with clothes, water, and food. This game symbolized how risky it was to be a Buffalo Soldier and oftentimes they had to gamble valuable items because of the lack of resources they had.
We then moved to a game where we had to knock as many cans off a log from a distance with a small ball within 3 minutes. This game demonstrated target practice that the Buffalo Soldiers had and how difficult it was to do their job with poor equipment. In the last game we played, one person had to block all the small balls being thrown by four people from entering the three hula-hoops that were arranged behind them. This game was my favorite because it represented the Buffalo Soldiers as defenders against poachers. It was used as a game to show that if people banded together, they could tackle any issue that we face in modern times.
After the games, the groups would join together again and go on a 30 minute walk in which three IYEL interns would play a role as a former Buffalo Soldier and recreate how specific soldiers overcame obstacles during the segregation of America.
After lunch, we walked to the base of Yosemite Falls. It was one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen, and Alejandro agreed. We were able to climb the rocks to get closer to the waterfall and IYEL took amazing photos of all of us there. Because Yosemite was very hot, the breeze coming from the waterfall was refreshing and felt as if nature provided a natural air conditioning.
While walking back to the campsite from the waterfall, we had a great view of Half Dome. Melissa Tang, our BEETS Program Manager, told me that she climbed it before with her father. I thought that was very courageous, because the mountain looked steep and a little scary. After arriving back at the campsite, we had an hour to rest and everyone went to a nearby river to swim. You could see everyone’s joy and how much they loved the trip. It was so refreshing to be around such positive energy inclusive to everyone.
Carlos, Jay, and I were some of the few members from CommunityGrows to enter the ice-cold water. At first, Carlos and I started with just inserting our feet, but a friend from New Leaf wanted to play football in the water, which led me diving into the cold water for the ball. Then Jay just came running into the river because he didn’t want to think twice about cold water and joined our game of catch. It was challenging because of the temperature and flowing water. After about an hour of water time, the IYEL interns led us back to the campsites for dinner–a catered dinner of mac and cheese, BBQ chicken, pasta, and salad. Everyone loved the food, especially the mac and cheese!
After eating, the IYEL group split everyone into five groups and we had a dance off. Everyone enjoyed the dance off because it added an element of surprise because you could call out any group you want, and that group has to do a different dance rapidly or they are dropped from the competition. Being in a group with Jay, caused us to win because Jay was very quick to think of dance moves, we eventually couldn’t think of anymore and just came up with random movements, which is how we won. It was a very unique game that was very entertaining, even to those who claimed they did not enjoy it.
After the dance off, everyone went back to their separate groups and had 10 minutes to prepare some type of talent for the talent show. It was very difficult to think of ideas because we were hit by surprise, which left us dazed and confused. Jay then suggested a skit in which Carlos and I discuss how the day went. The skit was supposed to demonstrate the yin and yang, the balance of good and bad, showing that no matter how bad a situation is, there is always good too. We also used it as a way to thank IYEL for hosting such a wonderful trip and making sure every activity they planned and lead was fun, inclusive, and informative. All the organizations had wonderful skits and songs that made the night much more special. The feeling of friendship and positivity floated through the air and this was the strongest point of unity through the trip. Around 9 PM, we began to burn letters we wrote to someone we used to be friends with or a loved one reflecting on the positive times we had together. It was a tradition used in Chinese culture that believe the burning of the letter would let the thoughts travel to the person and they would feel positive energy. The last thing of the night was roasting marshmallows.
Friday, June 24, was the last day of our adventure. I woke up around 3 AM and I heard footsteps, but no zipper indicating that someone left their tent. Then after about five minutes I heard sniffing around the tent. I woke up Carlos and heard if he could hear it too because I wanted to be sure I wasn’t just being paranoid, and he also heard the same. We concluded it was a deer because deer have been spotted during the evening near the campsites. After waking, a chaperone asked if we heard the bear from last night. Carlos and I were shocked but also jazzed that we hear it.
When breakfast was finished we formed a circle and shared our thoughts of the entire camping experience. It was the first time camping for many, and most hoped to come back with their loved ones. It was a emotional closing circle, having made so many good friends. As we boarded the bus around 10 AM, it felt like I left part of my heart at Yosemite. I hope to return someday soon!
The IYEL group orchestrated a fantastic trip to Yosemite. Learning about the Buffalo Soldiers from Shelton Johnson was one of the highlights. Most of the IYEL group were teens, which was really inspiring. They stepped up to play the part of a leader for the enjoyment of everyone, and deserved their high praise. This trip to Yosemite will stay ingrained in all the people who attended. It was an unforgettable experience in a wonderful place with great new friends. Thank you so much!
On Tuesday, February 2, 2016 our Spring BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) began their training at John Muir Elementary School and the Koshland Park Community Learning Garden. In the group were four “returners”: Mia Manalo, Jennifer Nazara, Charome Thomas and Adrian Valencia. Joining them are Ronnie Allen, Gene Chu, Gonzalo Duque, Alejandro Fernandez, Toddiana Jasper, Talia Matau, Keyonce Mitchell, Linda Saenzpardo and Barry Tan. After an opening circle and welcome introduction at the John Muir CommunityGrows’s office, and a tour of the school the group walked a block away to Koshland Garden. After an icebreaker game to remember names, Barbara Wenger, Director, talked about the history of Koshland Park and the programs at CommunityGrows. She also brought delicious cupcakes for everyone in honor of Adrian Almquist’s birthday. Adrian is the caretaker of Koshland Park’s Learning Garden, and he is also our CommunityGrows Garden Programs Manager for all our garden sites. At the end of the day returning BEETS lead others on a tour of the garden.
On Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, October 12, 2015, the BEETS traveled out to Indian Valley Organic Farm in Novato, CA to work and join the Three Sisters Harvest Celebration. The Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden (IVOF&G) was founded in 2008 as a direct response to a call from the Marin Agricultural Summit to establish an organic teaching farm on the Highway 101 corridor. It was created to support and sustain local food systems and organic agriculture, to help develop the local agricultural workforce and offer job training for an underserved North Bay population, and to provide healthy, nutrient-dense food for hard-working local residents.One of the highlight of the day was meeting instructor Wendy Johnson, a long-time friend of CommunityGrows, and spiritual teacher. To many of us, Wendy is a national treasure. As author Joanna Macy said of her, “if Earth took a human voice, it would be Wendy’s: wry, fierce, passionately attentive to detail, and so startling in its wild freedom it’s almost scary…”
Wendy with other garden teachers talk about the importance of the ancient method of gardening, “Three Sisters”, which uses a simultaneous intercropping system to grow corn, beans, and squash, providing long-term soil fertility and healthy food. These three crops, or Dio-He-Ko, (those who sustain us), have been grown together since the dawn of agriculture in Meso-American gardens. “These ancient ones were considered by the Iroquois to form a three-in-one goddess, growing together to nourish body, mind, and spirit.” (Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate, W. Johnson)After all volunteers were welcomed and given instructions for the day, we proceeded to walk to the top of the garden overlooking acres of produce. One of the successes of the farm is that it is protected from surrounding areas, which are not farmed. This has helped to keep the area safe from genetic pollution from modern laboratory-raised varieties of genetically modified plants. Because of this fertile area, the farm can grow ancient plants from seeds that have come from native lands throughout the world.
There were stories and ceremonies throughout the morning to honor the harvest of corn, beans, & squash. Corn is a revered crop, known as the Old Woman Who Never Dies by traditional native farmers of the Mandan and Hidatsa nations. It is also called ta’a, the “seed of seeds.” Beans were first cultivated almost eight thousand years ago in Meso-America, and bean images have long appeared in prehistoric art. The seed of the bean plant was used as a color-coded means of ornament and communication. Squash is the eldest of the triple-treasure sister, dating back ten thousand years to scattered remnants found in the prehistoric caves of the Tamaulipas mountains of Mexico. (Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate, W. Johnson)After the telling of the Three Sisters stories, the BEETS and other volunteers walked through seven-foot high stalks of corn and gather kernels for harvest. We also gleaned rows of different kinds of beans and careful culled them for future use. These activities were reminisce of native tribes coming together to harvest and provide for their communities.
The culmination of the day was a delicious native foods lunch prepared with food from the garden. We got to meet some amazing people who care for this farm and shared their stories with us. The BEETS got to experience the ancient practices of indigenous people and share in the harvest of this beautiful farm. For more photos from the day, check out our Flickr Photostream here.