The three week journey of an aspiring high school senior and her mission to learn about urban farming and write about her experiences.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Planting the First Seed--My First Day

Monday morning. I woke up at 6:45, ate breakfast and got ready for the day as usual, except this day would be a bit different. It was my first day on the farm. I took my little brother, Wyatt, to school, grabbed a cup of coffee and went on my way. The drive there was quiet. I had turned the radio off, rolled the windows of my car down and listened to the early morning of a community other than my own. The quiet of the early morning has a way of mesmerizing my mind like nothing else. Soon enough I found myself cruising along with nothing but time and space to think. I have to admit that I was somewhat nervous. What would it be like? Would it be hard? Are the people nice? Is this worth it? Yet, through all of the fear, I could not shake this overwhelming sense of excitement. Excitement to see a program that gives back in every sense of the word. Excitement to learn about urban farming. And excitement to be apart of it and tell the story! When I arrived, I found myself dumping boxes of old lettuce onto compost piles and then laying coffee grounds and beer mash onto the lettuce and finishing it off with a layer of wood chips. This was my first experience composting; a process which fertilizes with a mixture of decaying organic matter. My adviser, Bëlît, told me that this pile would take 4-6 months to be ready. The food is donated from people all across the city, the coffee grounds are donated from three area Starbucks' restaurants (which the workers pick up 6 days a week), and the beer mash is donated from a friendly brewery on the west side. People also donate plants to the farm. It is pretty incredible to see so many different people helping out. Everyone from local businesses to large, corporate chains like Starbucks donate what they can and essentially provide the fuel for the farm to run. All of the local donation and support is amazing, but what I found to be the most fascinating was the level of passion and dedication of the workers on the farm. Bëlît told me that this location alone receives 25,000 pounds of food each week and that a lot of it has absolutely nothing wrong with it. So many people could be eating the food that is given to them for the compost. She cautions herself to not think too much about that unfortunate truth. Another new friend on the farm is Ahe. We bonded over our love of Reggae music and he showed me some tricks to save time on the farm. He also told me of his plans to one day own his own farm and truly "live off the land". Sounds pretty nice to me! They both truly see the issue at hand and how this program works to help solve it. Bëlît gave me a tour of the farm and explained its past, present and future. The farm sits on the land that was once known as, "the forgotten triangle"--an area destroyed by fire and turned into an illegal dumping site in Cleveland's Kinsman neighborhood. Three childhood friends, Damien Forshe, Keymah Durden and Randell McShepard, grew up near the Kinsman neighborhood and years later became co-founders or the Rid-all Green Partnership which works to provide healthy, fresh food, farm-raised tilapia and job opportunities to Cleveland's inner city residents. They have produced around 14,000 lbs of food and around 350 lbs of tilapia fish along with expanding their site and involving the community with programs teaching kids and adults about urban farming, hosting seminars and even producing comic strips for kids teaching them about environmental issues just outside their door just in the last year or so. In the near future, they hope to build a 6,000 square foot greenhouse and expand their mission. As I wrapped up my first day, I recall walking to my car and thinking to myself, "I got lucky with this project." And so the excitement ensues... --Planting hope--

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