Grow dat, Part ll

by Ines Malti • Photography by Max Elliott

Last fall, Urban Roots traveled to New Orleans to visit our sister program, Grow Dat Youth Farm, and this past May, Grow Dat had the opportunity to reciprocate and travel to Austin. “It is so rejuvenating to be out here on the farm and rejoicing…collaborating with our sister organization Urban Roots,” said Grow Dat’s Site Director and Outreach Coordinator Jabari Brown during his visit to our 3.5-acre farm. 

One of the highlights during Grow Dat’s visit was participating in a community workshop held at Wheatsville Food Co-op where they, along with Urban Roots members, presented the differences between conventional and sustainable agriculture, introduced new vegetables, such as kohlrabi and fennel, along with their nutritional benefits, and hosted a taste test of sustainably grown versus conventionally grown carrots. 

The workshop was not only informative to the mix of families and food enthusiasts curious about the nutritional and environmental benefits of eating locally, but also gave interns the chance to share their personal stories. Joe House, a three-year Urban Roots youth leader, gave a Food Network-style cooking demo on caramelized carrots and shared his passion for cooking. “I’ve been cooking for most of my life, and it has helped me bond with my dad,” he said. “Food is what brings people together—communities together—and cooking is just an important skill to have.” Nick Clayton, one of the Grow Dat interns, shared his message with the audience, too. “If you want to be special, if you want to be unique and stand out—buy locally, eat locally, know your food,” he said. “Be food-smart and food-wise.” After hearty applause, interns were given time to reflect with staff about their experience and give their peers supportive feedback. 

I was one of the four interns that visited Grow Dat’s farm in the fall of last year, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this exchange. This workshop taught us how we can better go about giving interns the proper training to engage and interest young children in learning about healthy eating. It was a fulfilling and gratifying experience to be able to stand on the stage beside Grow Dat, to engage with the audience about food and nutrition, and to see children and adults leave the room with smiling faces and an enlightenment on the topic of sustainability in farming and our food, or at least with a greater understanding of what these two youth organizations represent for the good food community. While we are located in different states with vastly different soil types, at the heart of both programs are the youth who share similar ideas about and experiences of food and sustainability. Although this was the end of this phase of a very special partnership, it is only the beginning for the two organizations and their continual nourishment of the greater community. Many thanks to Wheatsville Food Co-op for hosting us and to the Kabacoff Family Foundation for sponsoring our collaboration, and thanks to all who attended and supported the youth in their first community workshop. Thanks also to the Grow Dat team for making the trip to Austin, and for being a part of this exchange of friendship, ideas, wisdom and laughs. Oh, and about that taste test? In case you were wondering, the sustainably grown Urban Roots carrot, described by the youth participants as “crunchy,” “colorful,” and “sweet,” was the crowd favorite. Big surprise.

Ines Malti, 16, is an Urban Roots outreach intern.