#TBT Reflecting on Rigor

The following was first published on the Gateway Greening blog in August of 2016. As all our programs reflect on our 2017 summer, we keep coming back to the opportunity to do rigorous work together- physically, socially, emotionally, even spiritually- as what we are most grateful for.

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Dig It crew members are on the home stretch, with only 1 week to go before their summer jobs are over. They have done some HARD physical work, jobs that would make adults cringe and retreat into air conditioning. Last week, we harvested 6 rows of potatoes at La Vista Farm in Godfrey (in addition to rows and rows of tomatoes and carrots). It was 95 degrees, and crew members were crawling through the soil filling up buckets behind the potato digger. Some potatoes were rotten, and when crew members grabbed them, the liquefied potatoes exploded onto their hands. We were sweaty, stinky, and coated in potato goo and a thick layer of dirt. Naturally, crew were complaining and moving pretty slowly by the end of that job, and the crew leaders had their work cut out for them to keep the group motivated and working.

We stopped to eat lunch, and after lunch we had about 20 minutes before we needed to leave. The farmer gave us some options: either we could leave then, or we could speed pick green beans for a few minutes. Without hesitation (okay, maybe with a little hesitation), our crew went out into the beans.

I was incredibly proud of them. This is what it’s all about- being willing to help somebody, to do it well, and to finish the job with a positive attitude, even if it makes you sore and hot and uncomfortable.

However, this is not the hardest work we’ve done this summer. The most challenging  task Dig It takes on, from the day they start until long after they finish, is the task of building a loving and supportive community from a group of strangers. Many adults comment to me that Dig It reminds them of day camp, and that it doesn’t seem like a real job. They don’t usually mean this in a negative way– they just notice all the games we play every morning, or the time we spend talking and reflecting, and understandably make an assumption that those things don’t count as work.

True, building community is not usually a central task in our day jobs, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t work. From the first day of Dig It, we push our youth to open up and share things about themselves with the group. We push them to treat each other with respect and dignity. We help them find strategies to resolve conflicts with other crew members. We play games every day to practice our group problem-solving skills and to build trust with each other. We train them to ask each other if they need help. If someone is working alone, ask if they want some company. Hold each other accountable– if a friend is slacking off, remind them that we’re here to work. We learn about how social structures like racism and sexism affect our individual group, and we take steps to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Given the choice between picking slimy potatoes in the heat or doing this community-building work, I think many adults would choose the potatoes. But out of all that community building, we get a group of young people who take care of each other, and can accomplish any task while honoring the opinions and ideas of each individual.

There is no shortcut to this outcome. No amount of money can buy a loving and supportive community. You’ve got to do the work, every day, even on bad days. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Our crew has truly shown up for each other and done that work, and it’s not the kind of thing you can un-learn.

Wrapping up a summer with Nature Works at Forest Park Forever

INTRO:

As our seventh week in Forest Park Forever’s Nature Works program comes to a close, we’ve been looking back on all the things we’ve done together: fishing, turtle tracking, pulling water primrose, and working to improve the Forest Park Ecosystem. These photos give a glimpse into all the fun we’ve had.

 

Meet our wannabe Dr. Doolittle: Aaron

Meet our wannabe Dr. Doolittle: Aaron

Hanging with our fish buddy Herman

Hanging with our fish buddy Herman

Fish for Days

Fish for Days

When the only shade is what you're throwing

When the only shade is what you're throwing

When you pull a huge pile of vines off a tree, and your crew leader tells you it’s poison ivy

When you pull a huge pile of vines off a tree, and your crew leader tells you it’s poison ivy

When someone tells you that there’s more wintercreeper to pull

When someone tells you that there’s more wintercreeper to pull

You have no idea how bad this picture smells

You have no idea how bad this picture smells

This is our friend Liz

This is our friend Liz

When Kevin thinks he’s hilarious, but Aaron clearly doesn’t agree

When Kevin thinks he’s hilarious, but Aaron clearly doesn’t agree

Mother nature, but every time you say water primrose it gets more disgusting

Mother nature, but every time you say water primrose it gets more disgusting

OUTRO:

As we approach our final week, we know that the smell of water primrose will fade, and the poison ivy will stop itching, but the friendships we’ve made and the things we’ve learned are here to stay.

Lessons Learned on the Farm

  1. Team work. Haven’t you heard the saying, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself? Well I disagree, because working with people is an important skill to develop – especially when working on a farm. By working as a team in the teen program, we get more done in a couple days than an average farmer gets done in weeks. My favorite teamwork memory is when we all worked together and weeded four raised beds in the community garden. It was really hard work, but we got it done in record time. 
     
  2. Have a good attitude. You should always keep a good attitude no what happens outside of the workplace. When you give off negative vibes you bring everyone else down, which isn’t fair to the team. Instead of walking around upset, try one of these two things: fake it until you make it OR communicate what is going on with those around you. No one is psychic, so acting upset will only let others know that you’re upset, but won’t let them know that you’re actually hurting. By practicing good communication skills, you allow others to understand what you’re going through and, most importantly, to support you.
     
  3. Mistakes will happen and that’s okay. Mistakes are a part of life and we can use them to grow stronger. So, when you make a mistake – admit it – and then move on and try not to make the same mistake again. For example, I was hula hoeing one day on the farm and accidentally cut down a plant. At first, I was scared to admit what I had done and so didn’t say anything and felt terrible. But one of my teammates walked up to me and encouraged me to just tell the truth. So, I told everyone what I did and Miss Deidre wasn’t mad and actually had everyone clap for me. That taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s important to tell the truth. And, for the record, I haven’t cut down another plant since!
     
  4. Dedication & Determination. There is a lot of heat and a ton of bugs here at Seeds of Hope Farm, which can be extremely frustrating and make you want to quit. But, before you do, think beyond yourself. Think of the people who don’t have access to fresh foods – people who live in food deserts. By showing up to the teen program every day, you are taking a stand for food justice, which is giving everyone an opportunity to eat fresh fruits and veggies. So, stay with Seeds of Hope Farm – grow for them, grow with them, harvest for them, and last but not least, LOVE them. No person left behind without fresh foods!   

    1.     Team work. Haven’t you heard the saying, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself? Well I disagree, because working with people is an important skill to develop – especially when working on a farm. By working as a team in the teen program, we get more done in a couple days than an average farmer gets done in weeks. My favorite teamwork memory is when we all worked together and weeded four raised beds in the community garden. It was really hard work, but we got it done in record time. 

- Davion Brown


MoBot Outdoor Youth Corps Crew in Baden

Hello.  This is the Missouri Botanical Garden Outdoor Youth Corps Crew.  I’m Victor and this Jamar.  We work in the Baden Community.  One of the things we do have here is a community garden.  We grow delicious fruits and vegetables that the community love.  We grow a variety of plants.  We pick up trash around the community in the HOT, HOT, HOT weather.  We also mulch around trees and plantings in Dickman Park, our neighborhood park.  That stinky mulch gave us a nose ache.  We use rakes and our bare hands, wow what a job!  All in all, we work very hard to make this community a safe, better living, sustainable environment for people.

 

Victor Tabor & Jamar Watkins

Missouri Botanical Garden, Outdoor Youth Corps

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Field Trip to Dancing Rabbit

Field Trip to Dancing Rabbit

Brianna harvesting cabbage to make sauerkraut.

Brianna harvesting cabbage to make sauerkraut.

  jai and Walter using a mandolin to shred cabbage.

 

jai and Walter using a mandolin to shred cabbage.

On July 10th, members of the EarthDance Junior Farm Crew &  staff arrived at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge, MO for three days of exchange, exploration, experimentation, and "stretching" themselves mentally, physically, and socially.  

jai smells fresh goat's milk with heardswoman Mae.

jai smells fresh goat's milk with heardswoman Mae.

FC Crew members walk down Main Street at dusk.

FC Crew members walk down Main Street at dusk.

The residents of Dancing Rabbit, a community that treads lightly on our earth by growing their own food, making their own power, building their own houses, and sharing cooperatively, welcomed us with open arms, big hearts, and phenomenal food. 

alter, Elyse, and Hassan building a cob wall.

alter, Elyse, and Hassan building a cob wall.

he full JFC crew with Sharon & Hassan in front of a completed wall.

he full JFC crew with Sharon & Hassan in front of a completed wall.

 

While we are still processing our experience at this amazing place, we thought we would share some pictures of our crew exploring natural building, organic gardening, food preservation, and what exactly this "sustainability" word means. 

ur final day after a workshop on how what brings us alive can help us change the world!

ur final day after a workshop on how what brings us alive can help us change the world!

Winter Creeper or Sweet Clover?

This post was written by the Forest Park Forever NatureWorks youth crew and includes some amazing PIE CHARTS!

After closing out the third week of the Nature Works program, we continue looking forward to working hard to improve Forest Park. While working along the Park’s waterway, we’ve been mowing, pulling, raking and spraying – tasks we’ve found to be strenuous but rewarding. This physically demanding work has also brought us closer together as a group.

Even though we didn’t know each other at the start of the program, we’ve bonded over our shared hatred of pulling winter creeper, for example. After three weeks of removing this invasive plant, we feel like a team more than ever. And although we agree on some things, we also have different opinions on some of the work we do.

Here’s how the Forest Park Forever Nature Works crew members feel about a few key aspects of the job:

Get at that hedge parsley!

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We assure you that all tree cutting is for the benefit of the ecosystem. Rock on, NatureWorks!

A Day's Work: "Put Your Heart Into It" (CAASTLC Seeds of Hope Farm)

Vernon chopping vegetables as he teaches a cooking demonstration with Operation Food Search

Vernon chopping vegetables as he teaches a cooking demonstration with Operation Food Search

Good morning community. My name is Vernon Hampton and I’m an 18-year-old graduate. My favorite hobby is making and listening to music!

A lot of times, we as people tend to think that we don’t have a major impact on our community or the world around us. But, you might be surprised at the reaction you get when you put positivity into your ecosystem, work towards a common goal, or even try to better your community. Here at Seeds of Hope Farm this plays an important role in our purpose.

There have been multiple activities we’ve participated in, but the one activity that stands out to me the most was our Green Teen Alliance (GTA) field trip to Forest Park. At this event, we met up with all the teens from the other programs that make up the GTA to learn about what they do and to give insight about Seeds of Hope Farm. Throughout this event, we performed various team-building exercises to get us more comfortable with each other and to learn from one another.

I believe that the most essential part of this was the activity where we had to make a physical and verbal presentation to exhibit what we do and why we do it. I believe that was the most powerful exercise because those types of activities make you feel more comfortable with people once you figure out that you have a common purpose or goal that you are working together to achieve and conquer.

 

Also, I believe that learning about other programs and realizing we have common goals makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than you could imagine – causing you to feel more important and needed in the world.

 

So, next time you feel like you don’t matter and you can’t make a difference – think about the bigger picture. It might surprise you what you can do if you put your heart into it.

A DAY'S WORK: Dig It Crew Dives In

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A DAY'S WORK: Dig It Crew Dives In

Can you, DIG IT? Can you, DIG IT?

Hi my name is Alana and I am one of the Dig It program crew leaders. Our program started 2 weeks ago, we jumped in going to our first field trip at the Forest Park for the Base Camp. Crew got dirty doing their first harvest. We harvested salad mix, scallions, kohlrabi, turnips, and more. We ended our week with a workshop on crop identification and plant families. Crew did a relay race to name all crops and plant families. My team fell short but everyone had an idea about which crop was which and which family each one belongs to.

We jumped into our next week on one of the first hottest days of the summer so far. Most of our Wednesdays are spent doing farm work, otherwise known at Weeding Wednesdays. This Wednesday we weeded all the ends of the beds and mulched them with wood chips. It was about 100 degrees outside but the whole crew pushed through and weeded all the ends of beds. After lunch, we worked on elevator speeches. 

Our field trip this week was Food Roof farm (yes, it's a farm on a roof) and Fresh Starts community garden where we turned most of their soil. Friday was a chance for new crew members to do their first harvest with the team and also learn about soils in the workshop. We ended our week working on a communication workshop called "Walk in My Shoes." So far our program is going really well and our crew members are amazing.

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A Day's Work: EarthDance Farms + Recipe for Carrot Muffins!

The Junior Farm Crew chows down on carrot muffins, fresh from the farm!

The Junior Farm Crew chows down on carrot muffins, fresh from the farm!

Wednesday kicked off the first Junior Farm Crew cooking session of the season at EarthDance Organic Farm School in Ferguson, where teens learn how to easily incorporate more veggies into their meals. On the menu this week: Awesome EarthDance Carrot Muffins.

 

Their time in the kitchen started with a trip up the farm hill to harvest the main ingredient where team members learned how to dig out this sweet, crisp root crop.  After reading through the recipe, JFC members got to work shredding carrots, measuring ingredients, and mixing the batter by hand. As the muffins baked, Logan University Nutrition intern Theresa Mesler led a discussion on healthy eating habits and importance of a plant based diet.

 

Once the muffins were out of the oven, they didn’t even have time to cool before the first taste test. Two big thumbs up all around. EarthDance carrots are must for this recipe, so make sure you pick up eggs and carrots at the Ferguson Farmers Market this Saturday and learn more about the Junior Farm Crew!

 

Awesome EarthDance Carrot Muffins

 

½ cup organic raisins

1 cup warm water

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

2 pasture raised EarthDance eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup brown sugar

1 ½ cups shredded EarthDance carrots

 

  1. Combine raisins and water in a bowl and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain & set aside.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & grease muffin tin.

  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt & cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, oil, and brown sugar; beat well. Add wet ingredients to dry; mix until just moist. Stir in carrots & drained raisins.

  4. Spoon into muffin tins (only fill each cup about ½ to ¾ full).

  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes

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A Day's Work: The Wild Side of Forest Park

The NatureWorks Crew putting on an epic skit for the Green Teen Alliance

The NatureWorks Crew putting on an epic skit for the Green Teen Alliance

A Day's Work is a series of posts that will transport you to the field with our summer teen employment programs. You might get dirty just by reading them!

Forest Park is widely known for its major attractions.  Hordes of visitors flock to the park to visit the St Louis Zoo, the multitude of museums, and to snap selfies near the Grand Basin. But this isn’t the only side of the park! This summer, a special group of 10 high school students and recent graduates are working to make sure the natural (dare we say wild?) side of Forest Park doesn’t go unnoticed.  They’re called NatureWorks.

The NatureWorks crew works primarily to restore the waterway in the park, creating a natural corridor for the native plants and animals of St Louis to thrive.  On a regular basis, you can hear the roar of mowers thundering to keep invasive species at bay.  You can see soil knives piercing the ground as the crew removes winter creeper and sweet clover.  You can smell the mud and algae as boots and waders trudge through the waterway.  Despite the long, tough, and sweaty summer days, the crew is always quick to a smile and ready for the task ahead. 

Determined to make our riparian buffers beautiful and a functioning ecological system, the work our Nature Works Team puts in will be enjoyed by Forest Park visitors now and forever. 

 

Billy Haag, NatureWorks Field Coordinator, Forest Park Forever

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