On Saturday, October 29, 2016 CommunityGrows hosted the second Bay Area Youth Summit for organizations working on issues of environmental justice at City Slicker Farms. Groups included Literacy for Environmental Justice and Nature’s Voices, as well as the CommunityGrows BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens). After the great rain the few days before, the farm was blooming and green. The morning started off with an opening circle, introductions and an icebreaker. Rodney Spencer, Executive Director of City Slicker Farms led a tour around the farm and there was lots to see.
The youth got to sample what was cooking in the garden that day, which was braised chard and bean soup, and sauteed chard in miso garlic sauce.Brandi Mack, of the Black Permaculture network lead a discussion and exploration about the sacredness of the earth and how we need to protect it for future generations. Here is Brandi with her daughter Isis.Youth participants talked about what they are committed to and how they hope to make a difference in the world. A great lunch prepared by CommunityGrows Cooking Coordinator, Crystal Jones, included hummus wraps and homemade pasta, as well as apple slices. In the afternoon the youth attended different workshops. One led by Susan Silber of Nature’s Voices had youth documenting their views on how they would like to help and encourage environmental justice. Some students drew maps while others told stories and took photos and videos. Another workshop led by Rodney Spencer of City Slicker Farms taught youth how to design and construct planter beds, while another workshop led by Ryan Tachibana, Restoration Technician and Community Programs Coordinator at Literacy for Environmental Justice, worked on propagation of starts.
At the closing circle everyone got to express their appreciations from the day. Thank you for all the great partners that participated and for allowing us to experience City Slicker Farms in West Oakland. For more photos from the day, check out our Flickr Photostream here.
On Monday, April 18, 2016 the kids at Hayward Rec Connect after-school made delicious Vegetarian Tacos. The students learned about the beauty of vegetables when slicing into a beet, and the healthy benefits of combining foods, like beans, rice and salsa with other vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and spinach, to name a few. After cutting and prepping the vegetables, everyone got to assemble their own tacos. Linda Saenzpardo, one of our Spring cohort BEETS, assisted Crystal Jones, Seed-to-Mouth Coordinator with the class. In the corner of the room sitting contently, was a new addition to the Hayward Rec Connect named Hippity Hop. The rabbit seemed well adjust to the excitement of after-school activities.
On Thursday, March 24, 2016 the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) met up with youth from the Don Fisher Clubhouse for the Bigger Picture Presentation. The Bigger Picture is a collaboration between Youth Speaks, and the University of California, San Francisco Center for Vulnerable Populations designed to combat the rising epidemic of Type 2 diabetes by empowering youth to change the conversation about the disease, and work to change the social and environmental factors that have led to its spread. Youth Speaks exists to shift the perceptions of youth by combating illiteracy, isolation, alienation, and silence, creating a global movement of brave new voices bringing the noise from the margins to the core.
Tassiana Willis was on hand to talk about YouthSpeaks and recite her poems. She is one of the inaugural Emerging Arts Fellows at Youth Speaks, Inc. She is an accomplished writer, actress, and singer and has been a leader in YS programs such as SPOKES Youth Advisory Board, Brave New Voices Team Bay Area, and Future Corp; the engine that runs Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival in a rotating US city each year. Photos by Don Fisher Teen Services.
On Wednesday evening, April 13, 2016 the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) hopped on the Muni bus and rode over to the Castro Theatre to attend an Inforum Presentation, a division of the Commonwealth Club. Thanks to an invitation from a friend of CommunityGrows, the group got to hear Van Jones, President and Co-Founder of #cut50 and a CNN Political Commentator, as well as former White House Special Advisor. Van Jones was speaking with Shaka Senghor Director of Strategy and Innovation, #cut50, and author of Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison. Currently, more than 2 million Americans are in prison, close to one out of every 100 Americans. As a result, the federal government spends $80 billion each year on the incarceration industry while projects such as improving our national infrastructure and educational systems continue to be drastically underfunded.
#Cut50, a national, bipartisan initiative co-founded by Van Jones, is working to safely and smartly reduce the American prison population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. Hear from Van and Shaka Senghor, author of the memoir Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, about why they believe that now is the perfect time to achieve meaningful criminal justice reform and how #cut50 plans to make it happen.
Before the presentation Tassiana Willis, who is one of the inaugural Emerging Arts Fellows at Youth Speaks, Inc, and someone the BEETS got to meet at the Don Fisher Clubhouse on March 25, 2016, talked about her hopes and dreams for incarcerated prisoners.
The BEETS enjoyed the evening and felt it was a timely, insightful and illuminating conversation about criminal justice reform in America. (Some of these photos are from the INFORUM team).
On Saturday, April 9, 2016 the rain was coming down, but that did not deter our CommunityGrows staff Jay Jordan, who was on a mission to get volunteers involved in the garden at Cobb Elementary School. Most of the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) showed up and they were joined by ten hardy volunteers: two from University High School (Lucia Tice and Jan Wignall); a CommunityGrows Advisory Board (AB) member, Casey Johnson; a couple AB candidates; a wonderful family with a toddler; and other family and friends.The activity for the first part of the morning was weeding all the beds on three different levels of the garden. The BEETS were real troopers, some without rain gear. Yet they did not complain as the rain came drizzling down! What a devoted crew! The second half of the morning we all gathered together to learn about the Three Sisters. Jay read from the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. “Native people speak of this gardening style as the Three Sisters. There are many stories of how they came to be, but they all share the understanding of these plants as women, sisters. Some stories tell of a long winter when the people were dropping from hunger. Three beautiful women came to their dwellings on a snowy night. One was a tall woman dressed all in yellow, with long flowing hair. The second wore green, and the third was robed in orange. The three came inside to shelter by the fire. Food was scarce but the visiting strangers were fed generously, sharing in the little that the people had left. In gratitude for their generosity, the three sisters revealed their true identities—corn, beans, and squash—and give themselves to the people in a bundle of seeds so that they might never go hungry again.” It was really nice to hear this story as a group of volunteers and then be presented with the seeds of these three sisters. Everyone took a few of these seed in flower pot and went around the garden planting the three seeds close together as a group. In the fall, we will reap a bountiful harvest. For more photos, see our Flickr Photostream here.
Our Spring cohort of BEETS had an overnight camping experience on Saturday and Sunday, March 26-27, 2016. The goals of the trip were: to have fun, learn about the environment, learn more about each other, bond together, and try something new.
The Presidio shuttle picked up the youth at John Muir School and drove them to the Rob Hill Campsite, where they were oriented and set-up provided tents. It was a beautiful spring day for camping in the Presidio.
Teens set up a lunch of sandwiches and then proceeded to the Presidio Nursery. They learned how the Nursery is helping to restore the Presidio by planting native plants. They learned about seeds and how they are preserved. Here the BEETS got to shake acorns and hear the seed rattling. One of the plants they studied was Aesculus California. Here is a photo of the seed growing and the final plant in a bush form. One of the highlights was to learn about our ancestors who took care of these lands had a lot of knowledge about the plants they lived with. Our ancestors understood that if they take care of the plants, the plants will take care of us.
At the end of the Presidio Nursery trip, the teens paired up and Desmond, the Presidio Nursery Community Coordinator and our guide, led them through a trust exercise called “Find Your Tree.” The activity required the BEETS to trust their partner as they led them blindfolded through the woods and then they had to rely on their sense of touch, smell and hearing to find their tree.
Afterward the group came back to the campsite to relax, build a campfire and watch the sunset. After dinner there was a campfire with stories and games. Then they went on a night hike to Golden Gate Bridge where they saw an amazing view of the stars and the beauty of San Francisco. The night ended with s’mores around the campfire and off to sleep in their tents.
On Sunday, rise and shine was at 7:30 and then they took down their tents and cleaned up the campsite. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, yogurt and granola, there was a team building exercise where the paired up and walked around the trails to find native plants. They shared with the group a plant that they’ve found and some facts from their cards.
After a check out circle with CAP (Camping in the Presidio) staff, the teens did appreciations and review goals of the trip. It was a great weekend! Some of the appreciations included: teens thanked each other for helping cook and clean dinner, even when that wasn’t their assigned task; one BEET appreciated another BEET for staying by his side when he started to feel sick Sunday morning; several BEETS said they appreciated nature and the beauty of the campsite!
For more photos check out our Flickr Photostream here.
On Thursday, March 17th, the Spring BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) visited the Don Fisher Clubhouse. Located on Fulton Street between Gough and Franklin, the new Don Fisher Clubhouse opened in early 2015. It serve nearly 2,000 youth annually, ages 6-18, with an average daily attendance of 190. The Club features a competition-size swimming pool, learning center, performing arts studio, music studio, high school services center, middle-school center, Design-Thinking studio, and high school size gym; in addition to the organizational headquarters for the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco (BGCSF). A member of their teen staff gave the BEETS a tour of the facility,and then the BEETS presented an afternoon of cooking highlighting their spring theme of food justice. Ronnie Allen, Keyoncé Mitchell, Gene Chu, and Adrian Valencia worked in the kitchen preparing the marinade for kale chips harvested from the Koshland Garden. Other BEETS, including Alejandro Fernandez, Gonzalo Duque, and Jennifer Nazara worked with Don Fisher teens to prepare delicious fruit kabobs. Toddiana Jasper, Jay Jordon (our CommunityGrows garden educator), helped make black bean burgers. Linda Saenzpardo was at the grill flipping burgers. Everyone said the fruit kabobs were the best in the whole wide world, complete with lemon balm and mint harvested from our gardens! Amazing black bean burgers and kale chips too! The BEETS and the Don Fisher teen staff got to eat this fabulous, nutritious meal which they prepared together.
On February 20, 2016, the Spring cohort of the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) headed across the Bay to meet with cooperative workers, entrepreneurs, farmers, and activists to learn more about what community members are doing to bring healthy food to others.
Six years ago the Food Cooperative, which is owned and run together by its members, was born out of a desire to provide healthy, local and natural products to West Oakland, an area with few grocery stores and a lot of corner convenience and liquor stores. The Food Co-op is a project of the Mandela Marketplace, a a non-profit organization that works in partnership with local residents, family farmers, and community-based businesses to improve health, create wealth, and build assets through cooperative food enterprises in low income communities.The BEETS learned from the co-owner/workers, about how they buy produce and products from local farms and businesses. They also talked about the difference between organic and pesticide free produce (Some smaller farmers may not be able to afford to be certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture, even if they use organic farming practices. So those who don’t use pesticides but haven’t been officially certified organic will be labeled “pesticide free”)
After the market, the BEETS headed to Bottoms Up Community Garden located on the corner of Peralta and 8th St. On most morning, the Garden also serves as a pop-up breakfast spot, serving food from an outdoor kitchen just steps from the chicken coop. After a hearty breakfast of super-local eggs homemade pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches with greens from the garden, James and Sarah split up the BEETS between three different gardens they steward in the neighborhood. Fellowship Farmlette was in a lot next to a church and the BEETS moved dirt to create a raised bed. At Piggyback Farm, which was also home to a pig and two goats, the BEETS weeded and harvested greens. In the Bottoms Up Garden, they planted flowers.
The BEETS dug a huge raised bed and were very proud of their work.
After this hard work, they returned to Bottom’s Up Garden where Matt McCue from Shooting Star CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) taught a workshop on soil testing.
The BEETs learned how to gather soil for testing, mix it with the correct chemicals in order to evaluate the overall nutrient health of the soil. They learned how elements like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and pH can effect everything from the strength of stalk to how much a plant will flower. The BEETS will be using the valuable information they learned by conducting soil tests in many of the CommuntyGrows gardens this Spring. Here is a photo of two of our CommunityGrows staff, Crystal Jones and Cha’Shay Woldridge at the Oakland gardens.