Friday, November 12, 2010

Dragon Farm at the Dia de los Muertos Parade (pictures and captions from SVA/Dragon Farm student, Perla Chavez)

Farmer's Protection Act banner
Richard Brandt's dog, Fawnteja
SVA student, Ana Karen

Brandt and Rebecca

Some thoughts from SVA students.....

"The day of the dead parade was awesome. It was cool we got out there and inform the public about the farmer's protection act. it was also eyeopening to my surprise that most of the public didn't know much about GMO chile. In my point of view from being in the parade i think we had a lot of impact on those that seen the parade."
-Stephanie, SVA student

"That was one of the best days on Dragon Farm." - Angelo, SVA student

"I was there and I thought that the parade was totally cool and fun."- anonymous

"Wow thats really cool."- anonymous

"The paintings we did have so much meaning! I hope people can see our hard work and see how important this is! SUPPORT THE FARMING PROTECTION ACT!!!"- Lurdes, SVA student

"The Day of the Dead pared was a good way to expose our issues to a wider audience, and to educate those who did not know about what the "Farmer Protection Act" is about. I liked the way people responded to our float when we came rolling by. I was shocked with the amount of people who knew what the "Dragon Farm" is. Overall, the exposer of our artistic and agriculture enthusiasm showed with our float and the time and effort that we put towards. I am glad that the audience approved and hopefully absorbed the message."
- Josh Foster, SVA student
"This was a really good idea in order to bring awareness to the public about the farmer's protection act." ***** Marilyn*****, SVA student
"Today was "day of the dead" parade and we painted all of our faces like calaveras. It was a lot of fun making the float and being a part of the event. i had lots of fun and hope to do it again!"
-Rebecca Otero, SVA student
"The 'Day of the Dead' parade was a success! All the spectators seemed very supportive of the Farmers Protection Act. The art work that our class made for out float was filled with symbolism. The chiles represented GMO's, the chains on the ankles of the farmer and the hand coming out of the ground symbolized the freedom farmers are being deprived from now a days. Overall, the parade was really fun and exciting." - Saira Salas, SVA student
"This was a new and great experience, we had a lot of fun, and we hope we brought awareness to the public about the Farmers Protection Act."- AnaKaren, SVA student

Things to Do to Start a Garden (from SVA/Dragon Farm students, Stephanie, Rebecca, & Saira)

  • Clear weeds trash and rocks
  • Turn dirt with a roto-tiller or shovel
  • Apply compost
  • Level out compost
  • Plant seed
  • Install drip system
  • Install wire frame for row cover
  • Pin down row cover

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Closer Look at the History of Dragon Farm and the Sustainabilities Studies class at the words of Richard Brandt, founder (pictures from SVA/Dragon Farm student, Lurdes G. Ortiz and Richard Brandt)

Dragon Farm serves as a model of sustainability for the students at South Valley Academy as well as the surrounding community.  The "outdoor classroom" began as a student service learning project in 2007 and adopted the name of the school mascot.  The program has been integrated into the school's curriculum, mostly with the biology department.  Dragon Farm is in its fourth year of production, supplying Albuquerque with a source of fresh produce at the Downtown Grower's Market, in resturants, and directly from the farm.  Produce from the farm is now served in the school lunch program.

Sustainabilities Studies at SVA examines issues pertaining to the sustainable food movement through active participation.  Juniors and seniors enrolled in the course earn an elective credit at SVA as well as an elective credit at th University of New Mexico (UNM) Experienctial Learning Seminar 175.  Students explore issues relating to the environment, culture, community and economy.  Subjects asuch as seed saving, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), water rights, marketing, and the agricultural history of the South Valley are addressed.  Students learn all aspects of small-scale farming including bed preparation, planting, harvesting, prepping, and marketing.  Produce is sold at the Downtown Grower's Market and to SVA's lunch program.  Sudents will work with other organizers to promote awareess of the Farmer's Protection Act.  They will learn about positive change and community organizing by hosting a community presentation on the proposed bill and constructing a float (with Farmer's Protection Act theme) for the annual Marigold Parade.  The program recently received financial support from the USDA for a Community Foods Project Grant as a part of the Youth Food Action Project (YFAP).

"I, Alexis, in the black standing up with glasses, and all my other classmates, (left to right) Josh, Melinda, Ana, Alexis(me), and Stephanie were picking onions which can be stored without a refrigerator for two months. its fun being out there with the class."- Alexis, SVAstudent

"Im AnaKaren in the red shirt, it is a new experience working on the farm."- Ana Karen, SVA student

"A part of what we do at Dragon Farm is go to the Farmer's Market and sell our produce. We get to experience the whole part of being a Farmer, we prepare beds, just like the steps above, we plant seeds, we harvest, and we sell. Its nice to get out there and use the math that you learn in the classroom in reality." -Stephanie, SVA student 

"If you have never been to a growers market I recommend you go you will love it!"- Lurdes, SVA student

"This picture is a picture I took. With the yellow hots, green jalapenos and tomatoes. The food is so beautiful. This picture was taken in the morning when the sun perfectly lighted up the food in display just before we but a cover to block the sun. The food taste better than the it looks. What I am learning is so much fun and important! The experience of eating and planing my own food is a feeling that cannot be described. The connection between the land, the food and you. A connection that has been sadly lost."- Lurdes, SVA student

 "Mmmmmmmmm looks tasty. I remember pulling out the plants at the farm."- Angelo, SVA student

First Report on Dragon Farm's Mentee Sites--Santa Barbara/Martineztown Community Learning Center & Martineztown House of Neighborly Service

Through the Albuquerque Community Learning Centers Project (ACLCP), schools in Santa Barbara/Martineztown will provide an inter-generational connection between young children and highschoolers and offere opportunities for older youth to develop leadership skills and modeling behaviors.  The SBMLC is collaborating directly with New Heart to develop a youth gardening initiative.  The Martineztown House of Neighborly Service will also participate in the project through their youth-run garden.

The Garden at the Santa Barbara Martineztown learning Center flows from the murals on the walls.

Typical New Mexican box gardens with a hint of color to make them festive


Eugenia and Beth of the Martineztown House of Neighborly Service

The youth-run garden of the MHNS

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

East Central Ministries does it all....

They are a faith-based community organization in the Southeast Heights that uses a social justice framework to develop relationships and activities in the community.  As part of the YFAP initiative, the organization will provide technical assistance to the Highland High School Garden Club.  As of today, ECM has successfully developed:
  • a relatively large-scale community garden enterprise that has an after-school youth component
  • 3 large retail greenhouses, providing community members with jobs
  • a working relationship with the floral department of Whole Foods (ex: various types of naturally-flavored honey are being created to be sold in gift baskets)
  • a coop of 27 hens that produce cage-free organic eggs
  • bio-diesel
  • a bee hive
  • a social enterprise Olla production and marketing business
  • a youth mural project
  • a low-income health clinic
On my first visit, Matt Wilson, the Greenhouse/Gardens director gave me a tour of the facilities.
    Tomatoes galore...

     The greenhouse

    Save water, garden with ollas!

     Naturally flavored honey...jarred and almost ready to go!

     Youth mural project

     Life in the coop

    Farming Dragons

    Dragon Farm (the main hub of the initiative) is a fully-operational 1-acre farm that is part of the South Valley Academy Charter School.  It uses an experiential, service learning curriculum, with agriculture as a mechanism to foster community participation.  The farm makes academic issues tangible and creates a rich learning environment that integrates students with the food environment in a unique way.  

    On my first visit to the SVA, the students gave me a tour of Dragon Farm.  What I discovered was not dragons, but a flourishing agricultural venture that currently produces chili peppers, several varieties of lettuce, two varieties of eggplant, watermelons, lemon cucumbers, tomatoes, Texas Onions (a sweeter variety), peaches, various berries, and a few other crops.  The school cafeteria includes what the farm produces in the daily menu as part of a student social enterprise.  It is the only project of its sort in New Mexico.

     The Farm

     Josh, Ralph and the pepper plants

    Richard Brandt, teacher/leader of the program
    Looks like you Josh caught himself a Texas Onion.
     Eggplant parmesan anyone?
     Are these chilies spicy enough for your salsa?

     And for dessert.....watermelon.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    What's the point?

    The YFAP aims to:
    • expand upon existing work in the area of food access and security.
    • include and connect youth in 3 neighborhoods of Albuquerque: the South Valley, the Southeast Heights, and Santa Barbara/Martineztown.
    • combat the obesity epidemic in a manner that engages youth.
    • educate the youth involved and their communities about the nature of the food system.
    • encourage the development of a personal relationship to food.
    • mobilize residents to take action to improve food access and food quality for families living on a budget.
    These involved communities have disproportionately high levels of negative social and health outcomes, but at the same time, they all have strong community assets that can be mobilized and leveraged for the purposes of this project.