Growing Out: Supporting Community Gardens

December 11, 2018

As we approach the end of another growing season, we wanted to highlight one of our new partnerships at the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden.

This year, we worked with Myers and Finnegan Recreation Centers to support their on-site gardens and deliver educational programming. We hoped to show that an urban farm supporting local recreation centers can strengthen both the urban farm through staffing as well as the recreation centers by providing resources, technical assistance and education. Through this partnership we engaged over 40 young people ages 5 to 14 from June to November. The gardens produced approximately 300 pounds of food that went to youth and their families, community members, and Rec Center Staff.

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Over the season, Sankofa Community Farm Assistant Manager Qiana Ganges made a total of fifteen trips to each site to do garden maintenance and facilitate youth education programs. These programs proved engaging and dynamic. By working in the garden, youth could to dive in to small-scale farming head-on, fueling curiosity while giving ample opportunity for sharing knowledge and experience they already had. This shared teaching and learning is fundamental to the Popular Education model, which we use at Sankofa Community Farm. Youth engaged more fully in the learning process knowing that their knowledge was accepted and that they had power and ownership over how and what they learned.

In these gardens, as on the Farm, we focused on building relationships and helping our communities reconnect to the land, their culture, and their histories. Most of our youth and their families in the Kingsessing & Elmwood communities are African or African-American, so we centered our cultural lessons on the African Diasporic experience. Many of our young people do not get to explore their culture in this way in school, so we consider it an essential part of our educational programming. These lessons reconnect us to the larger story of who we are and remind us of our connection to each other and the earth.

For their final lesson together, Qiana asked youth to share one thing they learned this year, something they wanted to learn and why they wanted to learn it, and one thing they liked or would want to change about their community or neighborhood. Some were shy to share at first, but gained strength from seeing their peers sharing. “It was powerful to see this process in action and learn things about them that may not have come up in our other lessons,” Qiana said. “It was their time to teach me, even though they had been teaching me all season.”

The youth found comfort in sharing their experiences with each other. They found common ground and learned that they are capable of teaching each other right now. There is power, they discussed, in giving knowledge; in sharing the things we learn with those around us.

We are thrilled with the success of the first year of this new program. While not without flaws, this project gave us valuable insight into the potential for more robust community-farm partnerships. Looking forward, we are eager to start earlier in the season and explore more opportunities for resource-sharing, cooking lessons, and deeper engagement with the broader Kingsessing and Elmwood communities.

Through the partnerships between Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden and the Myers and Finnegan Rec Centers, we have been able to grow along with our community partners. We are excited to dig deep and build even more together in the year to come. You can support our Community Farm by donating to the Sankofa Go Fund Me, or contributing to our Room for All fund.

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