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.