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Hipster Supported Agriculture

I think of our programs with teens this way—Hipster Supported Agriculture. It’s a play on the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (that’s what all “CSA” stands for—those programs where you get your weekly tomatoes, carrots and inexplicable 12 pounds of celeriac). But it’s also a way to say that, actually, gardening is pretty cool, even if you’re a cooly sophisticated teen.

Mather Bio Club(Mather High School Greenhouse Club in their PGP-sponsored courtyard garden)

From the very first year, Peterson Garden Project has worked with Service Learning programs from local high schools. Mather High School Greenhouse Club, in fact, is growing the seedlings for Grow2Give for the fifth year in 2015. This year we’re working with kids from Sullivan and Roosevelt, as well as with direct service organizations like Girls in the Game.

In 2011, we worked with group homes near the original site; the kids helped with Grow2Give and tended two plots for themselves. They worked with a nutritionist from Cooking Matters and a professional chef to plan the garden and prepare the food they grew.

Girls in the Game2(Girls in the Game help at Vedgewater Grow2Give in 2014)

As we were working through goals, plans, and philosophy, we talked about the difficulties of working with these kids and how to engage them in the project. At the time it occurred to me first that gardening is a wonderful metaphor for life, and then that in fact, it’s not a metaphor at all, but life itself. The non-gardeners around the table were very concerned about motivation, goals and buy-in, but I knew what would happen once those young men and women saw a seedling sprout from a seed that they put in the ground.

Like every gardener I’ve ever met they would be struck by the miracle. The first time they ate a meal from food they grew themselves they would understand. They would not need it explained to them.

Green Corps kids(Greencorps participants at Global Gardens in 2013)

I often think about the engagement, humor and searing intelligence of one of the girls in the pilot program–in another context this was a college-bound kid breezing through school. Her intellect was both apparent and heartbreaking, because she was a 15-years old and pregnant. And then one of the staff at the group home told of how this young woman was driving past the garden and excitedly pointed it out to her companion–“There it is! That’s the garden where we grew our meals!” Maybe not so heartbreaking after all.

Hipster Supported Agriculture is rather tongue-in-cheek. I named it that to poke fun at my own uber-cool children. But in reality it’s not really funny. It’s how we’ll save the world.