GroundUP Organics Teach-Out: Empowering Youth for a Greener Tomorrow
For November’s Teach-out, we visited GroundUP Organics. GroundUP Organics is a flagship program of the larger, city-sponsored program Creatives4Community, or C4C. Both C4C and GroundUp Organics work to develop and train youth and young-adults in areas of urban ecology, green business and product management, civics and community within a broad cultural, ethnic, and historical context.
We arrived on the Yesler Terrace site at 9:30am after hiking uphill five blocks from Pioneer Square. On my way up, I was impressed and surprised by the vast number of housing complexes that had home gardens in the individual yards. Yesler Terrace is considered one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seattle, and is home to a diverse array of people, cultures, and languages. Although diverse, the home gardens signaled a unique relationship that the residents had with food that I was eager to learn more about. When we finally got there, we were greeted by Karen, a supporter and ally of GroundUP, who informed us that the youth were inside practicing their workshop one last time.
Currently, GroundUp has about eight students, ages 13-18, who are apart of a twelve-week program that works to develop leadership and promote awareness of urban agriculture, all though a cultural competency lens. The students have to apply and interview for the opportunity to participate in the workshop. Upon acceptance, the students also receive a small stipend as an added incentive. Not only do the participants very in age, they also comprise a diverse range of backgrounds, ethnicities, and neighborhood in Seattle. In alignment with the mission of GroundUP, this Teach-out was CAGJ’s first “youth-led” Teach-out.
The students filed out of the room one by one, doggedly avoiding eye contact, joining the rest of us outside. One of the students, Gailmo, introduced himself and welcomed us to Yesler and GroundUP. He instructed us that each of us would introduce ourselves and lead the group in a stretch. As we began to loosen our muscles for the hard work ahead of us that day, we also began to loosen up socially and mentally, students and visitors alike. Afterwards, in small groups, the students gave us a tour of their site. Once the group reconvened, the students provided us with a short introduction about home and garden compost. It was so neat to get to see some of the fruits of the labor that was happening in the classroom side of GroundUP. Afterwards, we gathered our things, collected some tools, and headed for the garden.
Not only does C4C and GroundUp aim to develop leadership within youth in the community, but its endeavors are also apart of a larger experiment going on throughout the country that is working to bring nature back into the cities. Specifically, through urban agriculture, GroundUP, C4C, and others seek to empower lower-income communities with the ability to access fresh, healthy foods. The gardens throughout Yesler Terrace are part of an effort to orient the neighborhood towards green, sustainable living. The residents also benefit directly, by being able to consume what they themselves produce. The GroundUP garden is a larger scale project of the same objective that serves as a site for students to learn about gardening, while also feeding themselves and their communities.
Down at the garden we split into various project groups: creating a compost line, removing bad clay-soil the city had dumped on the garden, and harvesting produce from the garden. For two hours, the students and visitors worked hard. Although it was a cool day (most fortunate it wasn’t raining), people were stripping layers left and right, as the heat from our work warmed us. At the end of the workday we collected 45 lbs of food for Yesler Terrace residents, and gathered 320 gallons of pre-consumer waste for the compost line.
After washing ourselves of the mud and dirt we had been accumulating all day, we gathered in the classroom to enjoy homemade sombusas one of the students had made with her mother. As we warmed ourselves and filled our bellies, we partook in a daily reflection about the goods and the not so goods of the day. As the day concluded I was overwhelmed with a feeling of accomplishment and hope. Here was a group of youth from all over Seattle, from all different backgrounds working toward the same goal, a goal that promotes food sovereignty from within.