We have benefitted tremendously from our Full Belly internship program which brings energetic, positive and inquisitive young people from all over the world to the farm to learn about sustainable agriculture. The benefits go beyond a great work team and into the realm of life-long friendships. Yuma moved on from the farm last week. He hails from Japan and is going to be at UC Davis for a couple of months — but that feels like a long way away after 15 months of working and living together.
Deeper Significance in the CSA Boxes
We are writing to introduce you to Mary Cherry, who is helping to start Family Harvest Farm, a 3.5 acre urban farm that will be located in Pittsburg, California. The farm will employ transition age foster youth and teach them to grow organic produce, along with other skills. Family Harvest Farm is still getting off the ground, and in the meantime Mary has been busy organizing cooking classes for youth using facilities available through the Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP).
Here’s her recent update on how the classes have been going: “I am very much enjoying cooking with Full Belly Farm produce. It is allowing people to see and taste produce that you can’t find at regular grocery stores. The watermelons were a hit the other week it was the first time the youth had ever seen yellow flesh watermelons! They were astonished that there was more then one kind. The beets were also a hit. Some people had never tried beets before. One person loved them so much that they bought some and made them at home. The last cooking class there was some produce left over and we got to take some home. The next day I got a text from one of the youth. She made an amazing meal out of the leftover produce. She was so excited about that she texted me a picture of it.”
“The cooking classes have been a great success. They are giving people an idea of what we can grow at Family Harvest Farm and opening up communication around why it is so important to eat healthy and have connection with our food. I would like to keep this going for a while. Is this possible? Would Full Belly be able to continue CSA donations to the cooking class at ILSP?”
In her first message to me Mary described her background and feelings when she was an 8 year old girl entering the foster care system. Here is part of her description: “I believe the success of foster children aging out of care depends so much on whether they have a safety net. Sadly, most don’t. Which is why when you look at the statistics on foster youth who have aged out of the system you will find that a good percentage of them drop out of school, get into drugs, suffer from mental illness, become homeless, or have kids at a young age and continue the cycle. While going through the pain, loneliness and feelings of abandonment, not just from my family but also from society, I felt responsible. Now, through my experiences, I believe the best thing for foster youth is offering support and security through love and community.”
“There are so many benefits of having a positive community in your life. The number one thing is being in a healthy support system. When people are working together on a common goal that benefits them and the environment, it can be the most empowering feeling. It is especially empowering to foster youth who have felt for most of their lives that their power has been taken away from them. Gaining some of that power back by growing my own food, and learning how to cook it, and the pride I feel when being able to serve my yummy creations to others hugely benefits my life. It offers a wholeness that I have never felt before. From working in the greenhouse, planting what you sow, harvesting what you grow, cooking it and eating it with your community brings everything around in a full circle. It doesn’t end there. Teaching others helps solidify what you learn and builds confidence that you can carry with you as you continue to grow. Learning about nutrition and thinking about what you put into your body is also very empowering and an important step in becoming a healthy adult.”
Mary has asked Full Belly to organize the donation of additional CSA boxes with home delivery to be used in the cooking classes that she has been conducting. Please consider supporting this program. If you are able to donate even just one box to Mary’s Cooking Classes, please let us know. Your donation will go directly to providing food and developing cooking skills among young, low income youth. We will continue to let you know about Family Harvest Farm and the classes at ILSP.