Reflecting on yield, by Chimu Titi, Urban Roots Youth Program Leader
Gardeners think a lot about yield, what is it? Quantity? The quality? What we learned? What we shared? As summer retreats and fall approaches we recall what went right and what went pear shaped. We have numbers. Over 20 lbs of fresh organic produce harvested per week and enjoyed in Urban Roots Culinary programs as well as sold at the Green Thumbs Growing Kids table by youth volunteers. This does not include the produce harvested daily by community members. We sold over 70 lbs of fresh organic produce at the weekly Regent Park Farmers Market. Produce was also harvested by families during our Family Drop Ins.
But wait, there is more!! Yes, our gardens were fruitful, we sowed, watered, tended and harvested. Who are we? The youth in our Urban Roots Youth Program began with, as we often find, the gregarious with the quiet, the boisterous with the contemplative and we grew together. One of our youth never spoke. He was always present never speaking but could always be relied upon to dig in and get to work. Our goal in the garden was never to push him to speak more and be loud as some of us naturally are. Rather, appreciating that his consistent participation spoke volumes. On the hottest day of the summer when his fellow youth packed it in due to the heat, he remained, silently planting rows upon rows of Lal Shak. Later in the season community members harvested all the Lal Shak and I am certain it was enjoyed, just maybe not silently.
The garden is a space for everyone and our youth are discovering that everyone can grow in their talent in the garden. Artists can be artists, and science-oriented youth grow in their discipline learning how to directly apply their knowledge to challenges of soil quality, nutrient cycling and water management. Our builders use their talents to construct new beds while introducing those who have never held a drill before to the world of power tools, all in the name of building a new bed to grow organic produce with high yields. Yield, yes, we are back to that – or we never left it – what we learned, shared, ate, sold – all “yield”. In a garden, the land greets the season not barren, but full of possibility. What we put of ourselves into the land is where the yield begins.
Youth with intern, building new bed at Sprucecourt PS garden
Cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and eggplants growing in the bed they built
As our growing season moves into autumn, garden needs change and allow us to reflect on what the summer yielded for each of us. What we sowed, what we nourished, what we tended and harvested and what in turn nourished us. The fresh air, the exercise, the social interactions and of course the delicious food.
Youth learning about hanging gardens at Rose Ave. school-community garden
Youth Culinary activity, stuffed raw peppers.
Our stall at the Regent Park Farmers Market sold out almost every week and by the end of the season we had repeat customers coming to us for their favourite item grown by the youth actually selling it.
Some of what we had on offer this summer.
Young people, many of whom live in apartments and have limited space to grow have found that their ‘limitations’ in terms of space are actually opportunities. Along the way they learned to grow and love the food that builds them. Our Peer Mentors, having been in the program previously, help their fellow youth understand garden practices and cycles.
The cycles we observe in the garden continue in our social relationships, together learning about food, nutrition and growing while encouraging each other to offer their own knowledge, whether it is marigold flowers for wounds, or the chocolate scent of a Jerusalem artichoke flower. The outstanding flavor of Mizuna in stir-frys. The garden does not allow for one-way flows of information or nutrients. We share, cycle, build and grow together. This does not stop in the garden; the youth take these lessons home, to school and to their community.
Chimu Titi, Urban Roots Youth Program Leader