Backyard Gardens

Backyard Garden Update!

The following appeared in a neighborhood newsletter in the Garner community of Parrish Manor, where we work with "Raise the Roots," a team of youth to lead a Backyard Gardening Program. This update was written by "Raise the Roots" member Kiara Sanders.

This fall, we built the first full-sized garden beds for each youth member of "Raise the Roots," and also a demo garden in front of the Main Office. The raised bed at the front office created quite a bit of buzz, and we received lots more applications for a garden bed than we expected! The entire crew is very grateful that the residents of Parrish Manor have reached out and expressed interest in being a part of our budding program. We have the resources we need to build several more beds, and we're ready to dig in this spring!

Each new gardener  receives our personal mentoring, which involves the "Raise the Roots" crew coming to check on the bed every other work day and closely inspect the bed to check for plant disease and pest problems. We also offer workshops, which this fall included a cooking workshop for those wondering what to do with winter greens, and a pest identification and control class with Master gardener Connie Schultz as a guest speaker. The cooking workshop participants ate a hearty dinner together and took home leftovers, and the pest control workshop attendees went home with goodie bags of pest control materials and information.

Starting in February, we will resume building garden beds and we expect to build beds for an additional eight households. We look forward to working with you to build your raised bed and help you raise your own fresh veggies. Happy New Year from the "Raise the Roots" team!

"Raise the Roots" rocks! One backyard garden participant, Ann, and her family are pictured above at the end of a fruitful "Raise the Roots" workday spent building her garden.

Organic Pest Control for Winter Gardens

In the community of Parrish Manor, the "Raise the Roots" crew is hard at work, teaching their neighbors how to garden and helping them build raised beds in their own backyards to get them started growing food! Four additional families have begun participating in the Backyard Gardening program. But  a lot of knowledge goes in to gardening, so Inter-Faith Food Shuttle is holding workshops at the community center to help folks in the community learn how to manage their gardens sustainably.

Last month, we held a workshop on organic pest identification and control for winter gardens. IFFS Backyard Garden Program Coordinator Ana Duncan Pardo and Master Gardener Connie Schultz led the workshop hosted by the "Raise the Roots" Youth: Kiara Sanders, Mario Conyers, Seth Church, and Shawn Robertson.

Participants learned about how to identify common beneficial garden insects and pests, as well as in-depth identification, life cycle and organic control methods for three specific winter garden pests.

Parrish Manor pest control workshop

We enjoyed healthy snacks and a colorful slide show featuring tons of great insect photos, filled out pre- and post- workshop surveys to gauge learning. Each participating family took home an organic garden pest control kit with informational factsheets, insecticidal soap, spray bottles for homemade toxic-free bug spray recipes and a hand lens for bug identification.

The learning up, a workshop on season-to-season garden planning, featuring IFFS Farm Manager and Educator Sun Butler as the guest speaker!

"Beet" Hunger with your own Backyard Garden!

IFS_beet-hunger_d03September is Hunger Action Month. Learn how one young woman who works with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's gardening program in Parrish Manor is taking action to help BEET HUNGER in her community by teaching her neighbors how to grow fresh, healthy food in their own backyards.   Kiara Sanders has always loved to draw. Pencil and ink sketches of people are her favorite pursuits,  but  she credits gardening for giving her  the confidence and the problem-solving skills required to pursue a college degree in art education.   “Although art and gardening  are different, they both require learning technical skills.”

Kiara, 21, has lived with her family in Parrish Manor, a friendly, tree-lined low-income housing neighborhood in rural Wake county, for more than half her life. Growing up poor and with no car, her mother and grandmother depended on food stamps and family members to get enough to eat.

“We never knew when we might have access to a car, so we often got too much fresh food that would go bad before we had time to cook it all.”

In the past year, Kiara has participated in IFFS’s Urban Ag Program as a paid intern learning how to grow food in her neighborhood.   Urban Ag educators Maurice Small and Lara Khalil teach a small cadre of part –time interns how to compost , build beds, mulch, and grow food as a means of feeding themselves.  The goal of IFFS’s urban ag training is to chip away at the root causes of hunger:  lack of access to fresh, healthy food and lack of income to buy food.

Beyond agricultural skills, Kiara says she has learned about leadership, “… how to function within a team; how to get organized; how to settle disputes and decide what to do when things don’t go as planned. “

By going door to door to drum up interest in the project, Kiara says she learned to overcome fear of social interaction,  and to listen to what her neighbors needed.

“We learned that the community garden was too far away in the back of the property,”  says Kiara. “ So we came up with the idea of backyard gardens because they are more convenient.  We can spend our time teaching  people who really are committed to doing the work, in their own backyards.”

Kiara and her fellow interns grew basil, peppers, cucumbers, and watermelon this summer in an area that used to be a “jungle of weeds” before the Urban Ag training began.  In the fall, they plan to have their own backyard gardens sprouting winter crops.  Naming the project “Raise the Roots”, they built a demonstration bed next to  Parrish Manor’s centrally located office and have begun marketing the idea through signage, flyers, and newsletters.  They hope their marketing efforts pay off by the spring with at least a dozen more neighbors joining the project.

“Not only can you eat better, you’ll learn responsibility and confidence by growing food.  If I can turn a jungle of weeds into all this produce, it shows that with a team, I can do anything!”…even  pursue that dream of getting a degree in art education!

You can help BEET hunger, too, by donating today, or you can help sustain programs like this one by becoming a monthly Ground Level Giver! Already have a backyard, community, or school garden? Consider donating some of what you grow through Plant a Row for the Hungry! Only by working together can we truly end hunger!

Raising the Roots: Starting a Community of Backyard Gardens at Parrish Manor

IFS_beet-hunger_d03September is Hunger Action Month. Learn more about one of the ways we're "beet"ing  hunger - by teaching communities how to grow and prepare their own food and creating greater access to good food - sometimes literally right in their own backyards! In the community of Parrish Manor last week, three young self-proclaimed “Garden Ninjas” not so surreptitiously built a 4 x8 raised garden bed in front of the park office and planted it with plenty of fall vegetables, herbs, and flowers. This isn’t guerilla gardening, it’s a demonstration garden, and it’s part of a new backyard gardening program beginning there, led by youth garden mentors Kiara, Seth, and Mario.

Since 2009, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has worked in the community of Parrish Manor to help start and manage a community garden there, most recently along with the three youth garden mentors, who have spent the last year working at the community garden and learning about agriculture and food preparation. Now, gardening in the community will take a different form – one that is immediate, local, and practical for Parrish Manor residents: personal gardens in their backyards.

The youth garden mentors have created this new raised-bed garden pilot program, called Raise the Roots. After getting feedback from the community about what they wanted to see happen in their neighborhood and about  how to increase gardening participation, they came up with a way to support residents in growing fresh, healthy, chemical-free food in their own backyards. It’s a program created by neighborhood youth, in partnership with and support from Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and the Parrish Manor management.

How will the program work?

Raise the Roots logoRaise the Roots (RtR) will work with interested residents to design and build various sizes of raised garden beds in the residents’ backyards. RrR will provide supplies and materials to get the residents started, all free of charge through this fall and following spring. They’ll also provide free workshops in gardening and food preparation after the planting season to help residents manage and prepare what they grow. The youth garden mentors will do what their name suggests, and provide ongoing support and assistance to the new backyard gardeners.

As the youth were working on the demonstration bed in front of the office, a few interested folks were already wandering over and asking about the garden– giving Kiara, Seth, and Mario a chance to practice their pitch and explain the new program.

IMG_4584While the garden beds will be in individual residents’ backyards, the building of them will be a community effort. In order to receive a garden bed, residents are asked to help build at least 2 other beds in the neighborhood as well. They’re signing up to grow, to learn, and to help other neighbor gardeners as they can.

It’s already taking shape as a community project – Thomas, the landscape manager at Parrish Manor, enthusiastically helped out with the build, assisting with leveling and squaring off the lumber for the bed frame and bringing tractor-loads full of compost and leaf mulch to fill it.

Planted in square-foot gardening style with a mixture of direct seeding and transplants, the demo bed will now act as a calling card for Raise the Roots.

The rows of red-leaf lettuce, purple mustard, rainbow swiss chard, dinosaur kale, spinach, romaine, cilantro, and parsley aside colorful zinnias are intended to entice passers-bys with its beauty and potential for a delicious, nutritious meal. A sign directs folks to inquire in the office about having one like it built in their own backyards. Each of the youth will also have a similar garden bed in their own backyards that they can show to their neighbors.

Why garden? IMG_4646

Gardening is a great way to get direct access to healthy, affordable food and empower families to take control of their food choices. With a garden in their own backyard, residents can work in it according to their own schedule, plant what they like to eat, and literally step out their door to reach it. And, it's another way to get in that physical activity!

With a network of food gardeners in the community, the neighborhood can become a landscape that meets the need for healthy, fresh, and affordable food – an asset currently lacking in the food desert where Parrish Manor is located. Raise the Roots hopes to provide opportunities for residents to reconnect with each other and the land, honor the cultural food traditions and practices in the community, and perhaps even provide opportunities for microenterprise. In a few months, after several beds have been built and community members have joined the backyard gardening network, the youth, other community leaders, and program partners will begin planning for how to keep this program going for many years to come. Most importantly, residents can rely on themselves for greater food self-sufficiency and be more in control of their food choices and health. As one youth put it, the program aims to “put fast food out of business!”

Mario, Kiara, and Seth: Raise the Roots crew, aka Garden Ninjas, aka Youth Garden Mentors

The Community and Clinical Connections for Prevention and Health Branch in the N.C. Division of Public Health and the N.C. Public Health Foundation are responsible for the administration of these grant funds, provided by the John Rex Endowment.

To help support and sustain Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's programs like this one that feed, teach, and grow to end hunger hunger in our community, consider donating today or becoming a monthly Ground Level Giver! Together, we CAN "beet" hunger!

Backyard Gardens Teach Life Lessons

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.

Mario Carrot Parrish Manor

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!

Parrish Manor Garden Work DayOften 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!

Mario Watering Parrish ManorThe 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!