How does a team of dedicated youth and adults create a major food-producing, educational, and inviting urban agriculture demonstration project on a 1/3rd acre vacant lot? How much food can we raise? How many people -- especially young people-- can we engage in urban agriculture? Can we make money raising and selling healthy, green, fair, and affordable food?
These are the questions we've been wrestling with at the Dunn St. Youth Farm, the main initiative of iGrow-"Whatever You Like," the urban ag youth program of the Tallahassee Food Network. My job as the program coordinator is connecting the team with area experts and arranging hands-on experiences, so we can discover our own answers to those questions.
Youth began work on the farm in July. The picture below shows Tierra, Khadijah, and Martin smoothing out the compost-mix in a 4'x4' raised bed, which they planted with sweet potatoes.
Throughout the summer and early fall, the iGrow team visited other farms and gardens including Mr Duffee's Alabama St. Farm, Turkey Hill Farm, the Salvation Army Garden, the Aaket Center's garden, the Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden, and the Leon County Extension demonstration garden. Of course, the iGrow Youth also drew from their experience volunteering at the Second Harvest Community Garden.
The next step was design. With the help of the Tallahassee Sustainability Group, the young folks brainstormed farm features like raised beds, fruit trees, a market stand, and compost area. Then they measured the site and designed the layout using Google Sketch-up.
September 15th, 35 youth and adults joined forces for the Dunn St. Youth Farm Cookout and Workday. Over the course of 6 hours, the team built six 4'x40' raised beds and filled three of them with compost. Below are a couple pictures.
Since mid September, the crew has been planting, hauling compost and wood chips, building an outdoor classroom/meeting space, dealing with caterpillars, building more raised beds and engaging the neighborhood. (I nearly forgot: before the cook-out and workday, the youth did a workshop on door-to-door outreach with Sundiata from E.D.I.F.Y Mentoring, and then promptly knocked on doors and met the farm's neighbors to invite them to the cookout and to solicit their ideas about what kinds of vegetables the youth should plant. This list served as our initial planting list because core to the mission of iGrow is to provide access to healthy food amidst one of Tallahassee's food desert areas).
Currently the Dunn St. Youth Farm comprises 10 raised beds (total planting space of 1150 square feet) planted with collards, cabbage, carrots, kale, chard, arugula, lettuce, turnips, sweet potatoes, sugar snaps and broccoli. Come check it out. The address is 526 Dunn St.
iGrow has workdays every Monday and Friday, 2:30-5:30. Starting 10/26, there will be a market every Friday, 4-5pm at the farm.
If you're looking for a way to engage in the food movement, or have young people in need of volunteer hours, send them our way. If you know folks who attend church in Frenchtown, please introduce us. Email iGrow for more info.