As the season comes to an end and I enter my first winter as a garden educator, I’ve been reflecting on the impact of our work. I am grateful for the meaningful moments I get to have with students the most.
One of those moments that stands out the most was in June harvesting with a class. We were at Longfellow middle school, where i had a meaningful conversation with a very engaged 8th grader. He was active and vocal that morning during our harvesting day introduction. His name was Dre. Just before we started harvesting lettuce, Dre asked me,
“How did you start working with plants?”
“I started by staying involved in landscaping when I was your age with people I was close with, as I got older I found more professionals who were gardening in different ways. My main thing is helping people feed themselves”
He became fully focused on my journey as a farmer and how I started working with Big Green at his school. We talked about some of my past experiences. His eyebrows were at a peak when he realized he could just start farming as a means to provide for himself. He asked me details about my work history. He scrunched his face then asked
“did you have to go to school for this?”
“There were many traditional routes to becoming a landscape architect, horticulturist or environmental scientist that were available for me to pursue but once I realized I wanted to be an urban farmer who would be improving food access for those most in need, I noticed there weren’t any straightforward avenues to succeed in the same manner as the established routes. Schooling is important to me and I’ve completed course work and certifications for my skills but for the most part it’s letting the work speak for itself similar to a trade. That it worked out for me. Since I started, being an urban farmer has become more of a conventional degree option because of so many farmers and food chain workers around the country. I went to learn from them. I went to support those projects to make sure you could have greater opportunities similar to mine” I told him. He nodded his head in deep thought to say he understood. I asked what he wanted to do, he said
“play football , but I like this stuff too.”
He smiled at me in a way that let me know he was inspired to think through a career in food. After this very brief exchange, we continued working on our harvest. Dre was super serious about making sure his peers were harvesting properly and felt supported. Dre is a young black male. These moments are priceless in continuing our work above and beyond schools for students from diverse backgrounds who have varied levels of education. Framing our work as a trade is crucial to helping youth imagine a future where they can secure a degree and livelihood in our field. I’m deeply grateful for these opportunities to connect with students around our shared passion for growing food.