In its on-going efforts to promote ag education, FamilyFarms Charities has teamed up with the Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation center in East St. Louis, IL to provide a hands-on gardening experience for urban youth. About 250 participants in the summer program and those attending the after-school fall program will learn gardening first-hand as they tend to the vegetables and fruits in the garden on the center’s property in East St. Louis.
It’s hard to imagine growing up in the city where fresh produce is nearly impossible to find and the connection between what is eaten for dinner and what is grown in the field is never considered. To help young people gain a better understanding of nutrition, gardening and farming and their relationship to the foods we eat, FamilyFarms Charities volunteers planted a vegetable garden, fruit bushes and fruit trees just outside the center’s classroom building/gymnasium.
Urban youth participating in the center’s programs will tend to the garden this summer and into the fall. The students will also learn about agriculture, food and nutrition through fun activities in the classroom as part of a summer learning curriculum provided by FamilyFarms Charities. Books explaining gardening and farming are also being donated to the center’s library to provide additional information and instruction related to gardening. Efforts are being made to arrange a field trip to a family farm where students can experience “gardening” on a much larger scale.
This first year, corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers, and cabbage were planted in the vegetable garden; strawberries and various berry bushes and fruit trees (apple, cherry and peach) were planted along the fences. Students will enjoy the fruit of their labor as the center will use the vegetables and fruits in meals they provide for youth. Any excess garden products can be made available to students’ families and others in the community. Future plans for the garden project as it grows bigger include involving the youth in crop planning, seed purchase, and a farmer’s market to provide fresh produce to community members and teach applied business skills.
FamilyFarms Charities is supported by FamilyFarms Group with headquarters in Brighton, Illinois. With its focus on “Using Agriculture as a Vehicle for Change,” FamilyFarms Charities supports projects agriculture projects in North America and abroad which promote education, feeding the hungry, families and self-sufficiency.