Update on Nature’s Friends Sunflower Field School – Teen Farming Cooperative

By Reverend Dele

Field School Students March 2013

Phase two of the Sunflower Field School orientation took place on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at Plymouth Congregational UCC with four of our participating organizations in attendance– the Glenncrest Community/Make A Difference House Youth Ambassadors; Sasha Bruce House and Beet Street Gardens’ Youth Garden Stewards/Yolo Pies; and the Fairfax Village Community Garden. These groups represent 11,500 square feet of urban land which can be restored to regenerating ecosystems. Presentations from Gail Taylor, Zachari Curtis, and Xavier Brown during the first session modeled our ethic of open sharing for the youth.

The excitement generated during the first session carried over to this week’s session as the groups shared scaled drawings of their growing spaces, were guided in their presentation of break even analysis homework assignments, as well as in sunflower yield calculations. After just two hours of working together, many of the participants, for whom the concepts were new and who initially shied away from some very different calculations, demonstrated a better grasp of the material and confidence in carrying out the calculations.

The session also included an exploration into the practice of co-ops as Allison shared with the teens and sponsors the philosophy, principles, types and the overall co-op landscape in DC. Sponsors had the opportunity to meet separately to discuss program outcomes and logistics.

Although this was the last of the two part orientation, everyone left energized knowing that the seeds of working together were just being planted and the future was ripe for a bountiful harvest of many kinds — a model teen co-op enterprise, emerging youth leaders, urban growers and environmental stewards, employment opportunities, job skills, organization partnerships, a bumper crop of sunflowers, newly established markets and more!

Organizations agreed to identify time for monthly planning and work share sessions and Nature’s Friends will make site visits to growing sites in April; finalize the workbook and will distribute sunflower seeds for planting in May. Nature’s Friends may facilitate other relevant trainings as funding becomes available. Thus, the focus over the next couple of months will be fundraising and organizational capacity. We’re looking forward to the evolution of the teen farming co-op and the best practices we will be able to share with the local and national community.

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