A guest post from Interns Kelly Bellomy and Kate Abel, who spent the summer with IFFS as part of the Masters program in Nutrition at UNC's School of Public Health. As we head into our last week of interning with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Farms and Gardens Division, it is amazing to look back at all that has happened in the short eight weeks that we‘ve been here. When we started out, we knew we would be working with some programs around gardening, but we had no idea that we would leave with a completely new knowledge-base about raised-bed gardening or with such sadness about the end of our time working with three awesome youth. We’ve spent our summer with Lara Khalil, Food Shuttle’s Urban Ag Program Manager, and the youth staff of Garner’s Parrish Manor neighborhood garden, working toward the creation of a backyard gardens program. Not only do we now know more about growing food, but we have also learned some incredibly valuable lessons along the way about community-based work. Here’s a quick look at some of those lessons that we will continue to carry with us long after our time with the Food Shuttle is over.
Lesson 1: Involve your community
We have seen first-hand how a community garden (or any other initiative) cannot reach its potential without the support of the community it is intended to serve. The community knows what it wants and needs, and their voices need to be heard from the start. If a program is for the community, their participation and support is essential!
Lesson 2: Give the youth some credit!
Often in our society, youth are seen as less knowledgeable or unable to fully contribute because they have less life experience than adults. The Parrish Manor youth gardening staff proves that this is anything but true. We have learned so much from these “garden ninjas”! Their knowledge about their community has been essential to starting this program, and they will continue to be an invaluable asset as they become the trainers and entrepreneurs of the backyard garden program.
Lesson 3: Change takes time, but progress is possible!
The backyard garden program has come a long way just since we started, and it’s clear that it has huge potential moving forward. Lara is working with the youth to help them become trainers in building backyard gardens, and the hope is to eventually turn the program into a small business for the youth within the Parrish Manor community and beyond. The progress that this program has made just in the eight weeks that we have had the privilege of being a part of it shows that while change may be slow, it’s possible! There is food growing in three neighborhood backyards, with garden beds for more families coming soon. The program is well on its way to reaching the ultimate goal of providing a way for families to easily access fresh, healthy and affordable food in Garner, and we are so happy to have been a small part of it!