Dear Grow Dat Family,
After seven years as the Founding Director of Grow Dat Youth Farm, I’m stepping down to pursue a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The fellowship will give me time to explore how land-based education, like the work we do at Grow Dat, can transform our existing educational approach into a more experiential learning model that enhances the relationship young adults have to land and to one another. I truly believe that connecting young adults to land and to one another can change the way they think about themselves and the world around them. I hope my work at Harvard will make this kind of opportunity available to many more young people, here in New Orleans and beyond.
I am very proud of all that we’ve done together at Grow Dat as we’ve created the largest farm in the city—a place where over 250 young adults have collectively grown 90,000 pounds of produce for the New Orleans community. I feel much gratitude for having been entrusted with leadership at Grow Dat by youth and their families as well as by the board and staff. I am confident the organization’s work will grow and evolve in new and exciting ways in the coming years.
Although I’m leaving my role, my heart remains in this work. To that end, I’m establishing a fundraising campaign to support Grow Dat alumni as they work to increase food justice in our city. Alumni will team up with partner organizations to build gardens, lead cooking classes, and provide other support that partners want to make sure they have access to healthy food. At Grow Dat I’ve been privileged to witness firsthand the power young adults have to create change, and I want to help Grow Dat build out this exciting new platform for youth as food justice leaders.
Please help me leave a legacy that gives the brilliant youth in our city the space to fully live in to their potential. I invite you to contribute to my personal goal of raising $75,000 for Grow Dat through contributing to my fundraising campaign here. I can think of no more fitting way to celebrate my last seven years of work than to invest in young leaders and their visions for a just food system.
Effective July 17, Grow Dat's Assistant Director Mike Kantor is stepping into the role of Interim Director. Staff and board will finalize details regarding the executive search process over the next month. E-mail email@example.com to request additional information when it is available.
Last Saturday, Grow Dat hosted our seventh annual graduation. The day was too rainy for graduation on the farm, so we pulled off a last-minute location change to the beautiful Ashé Cultural Arts Center. The space turned out to be the perfect setting to share a delicious meal together (catered by the wonderful Neyow's!), listen to live performances by the Cole Williams Band and local DJ Carlos Grant, and honor the hard work of youth. Families, staff, youth, and community members came together to celebrate the 44 crew members and 6 Assistant Crew Leaders who completed our spring leadership program and exhibited transformational growth over the course of their time working and learning together this year.
At Grow Dat, youth participate in the leadership program in four family-like units called crews, headed up by four Crew Leaders. At graduation, youth broke into their crews and invited parents and family members along so they could share in the camaraderie and deep relationships formed during their work at Grow Dat.
Head Crew Leader Asia-Vinae Palmer mentioned that this added a special touch to the celebration this year. “During graduation, we came together to show our appreciation for our young folks. Breaking into each crew allowed parents to hear from each crew leader how their kids had grown over the program. I feel a strong sense of community and am confident that our young people will be involved in alumni activities in the coming years. We really finished the year strong.”
Another highlight of the ceremony was honoring one crew member from each crew and one Assistant Crew Leader with the Metamorphosis award for their significant growth over the course of the program. We awarded crew members James, Vick’shawn, Jamaica, and Maxwell, and Assistant Crew Leader Alex, a farm share membership as a sign of appreciation for their work and leadership at Grow Dat.
The strengths of this year’s leadership program were evident in the sense of pride youth showed in their work as everyone celebrated a successful year. “Youth did so much this year—from growing food on the farm, to working together in teams, to hosting so many community members during our community lunches, and so much more,” Program Manager Glenn Caston said. “Our young people have gained a deep analysis around what food justice is, and it is quite evident in their work. Most of all, youth came together collectively from diverse backgrounds and created friendships and relationships they will cherish for the rest of their lives. It has been so inspiring to see the youth in our program work together across difference.”
During the summer at Grow Dat, we cover crop our fields to renew the soil and take a break from our program, but staff and fellows will be busy evaluating and planning for the upcoming program cycle. The Advanced Leadership Program begins in September, when recent graduates will return to the farm in tiered leadership roles and prepare for the Leadership Program to begin again in January. “I feel we had a really strong year, and we are in a great position to have an even stronger program next year,” Glenn said.
Fall farm shares are still available.
"There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace."
-Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Sign up for our first fall Farm Share now! You'll receive a box of our chemical-free, fresh produce each week for 8 weeks. Shares include:
- a 1/4 Ib bag of our signature salad mix
- a 1/4 Ib bag of arugula, spinach or head lettuce
- one bunch of kale
- one bunch of chard or collards
- fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, dill, chives, or mint)
Fall farm shares run from October 12 to December 19 and cost $120. All proceeds support our youth leadership program, which nurtures the leadership skills of teenagers employed in the meaningful work of growing healthy food.
Crew member Jane Toomey from Warren Easton Charter School says it best:
"There is some inherent quality in working with the ground and the soil. Kids get support from that environment and from feeling like they are part of something greater than themselves. The fruits of our labor are real and visible."
Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you on the farm!
(New Orleans, August 28, 2015) –– The Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University is pleased to announce the inaugural "Community Innovator's Circle" pilot partnership with Grow Dat Youth Farm. Through this exciting year-long partnership, Grow Dat staff will offer service-learning placements for 55 undergraduate students, guest lecture in two sections of SISE 2010 courses, provide research opportunities for graduate students, and enhance staff and faculty techniques in experiential engagement.
“It is incredible to see how Grow Dat has evolved and grown over the last five years. We have been in discussion about Taylor partnering with Grow Dat over the last year, and we are excited to move forward on some of our ideas for collaboration” said Dean Kenneth Schwartz, Michael J. Sacks Chair in Civic Engagement and Social Entrepreneurship and Director of the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking.
"Our ongoing partnership with Taylor creates a wonderful opportunity for our youth leaders," said Mike Kantor, CFO and Development Director at Grow Dat Youth Farm. Kantor explains, "Participants in our Youth Leadership Program learn how to facilitate and lead classes with Tulane SISE students in the fall and then work side by side on the farm, at the market, and on our eco-campus and biodiversity corridor in the spring. We could not offer this valuable learning experience without the strong support and participation of Taylor."
In addition to 50 fall placements for first-tier service-learning at Tulane, Grow Dat will design and host several 100-hour internships over the spring 2016 semester. These internships will focus on one of the three tracks of the organization’s core work: youth leadership development, sustainable agriculture, and social enterprise management.
Throughout the year, Grow Dat will host interested graduate students through practicum or research experiences as needs or opportunities arise. Grow Dat will continue to work with staff and faculty to enhance skills in experiential engagement, and the organization will help formalize the vision and implementation of the Community Innovator's Circle.
For more information about Grow Dat Youth Farm, visit http://growdatyouthfarm.org/
For more information about Taylor, visit http://taylor.tulane.edu/
On Saturday, June 27, 2015 we were proud to honor the graduates from our 5th Leadership Program. Valentina, Grow Dat class of 2014, came out to the farm and generously offered her reflections to the graduating Crew Members. Below are her thoughtful words that we thought you might enjoy, too.
My name is Valentina. I graduated from Grow Dat one year ago, and am now a Biology major at LSU. I came today to share with you my experiences and lessons that I carry with me because of Grow Dat. I want to tell you how Grow Dat impacted me, and of course also congratulate all of you for finishing the 2015 Leadership Program.
When I first learned about this youth led farm on City Park, I could just picture myself gardening, planting, and being outdoors. Never did I think that I would encounter such a diverse and open-minded group of people that would teach me to be patient and accepting. A school classroom could not have taught me what I learned at Grow Dat. Because of Grow Dat’s workshops and discussions, I became so passionate about topics that I never gave much thought to: I became an advocate for issues such as farmer’s rights, immigration and food justice. I also learned a great deal about minimum-wage jobs in fast food chains, sexual orientation, and social and economic groups that I was rarely surrounded by as I lived most of my life in Latin America and was raised in Catholic School until I entered college. Grow Dat taught me to try on, to practice self-focus, to not blame shame or judge, and taught me that’s it’s OK to disagree.
I met some truly wonderful people who inspired me to nourish and care for the only body we have. I talked to farmers who showed me what hard work really is, and how rewarding it is to provide food for American families. I became friends with people who gave up endless hours to serve breakfast for the homeless at Crescent City Café, and became influenced by fulfilled and happy people who shopped at the farmer’s markets. I have all of these experiences and connections because of Grow Dat.
As an alum, I have shared my successes and hard times with the staff and dear friends, I have continued participating in Crescent City Café, and supporting local farms. Most importantly I have found myself through service and agriculture and I have found a family.
I hope my experiences have inspired you to stop and think about what you want to take away from your experiences here at Grow Dat.
Again, congratulations to all of you. Thank you!