Sunday, August 9, 2009

Turnips and raspberries and purple cauliflower, oh my!

"Courage is doing something even if you are afraid to do it. Hope is believing that you can." --Alexis and John, GreenLeaf and CityWILD Summer '09 participants

Last week we officially concluded the GreenLeaf 2009 Summer Pilot program with a feast cooked…er…heated…er…warmed up in our first attempt at making solar ovens. The young people came up with brilliant designs for the ovens, but because we were lacking any plexiglass to cover them, we weren't able to achieve the all-important greenhouse effect and the ovens didn’t get too hot. Good try, though, and the Colorado Peach Cobbler was still yummy!

GreenLeaf's Summer 2009 Pilot Program was six volunteer days at a local farm in Aurora, working with young people ages 12-15 who live from neighborhoods in North East Denver like Globeville, Swansea, and Curtis Park.

It was a collaborative effort with CityWILD, who brought youth participants out to the DeLaney Community Farm in Aurora where GreenLeaf had planned and prepped the day's activities, including games, farm work, a quote and theme of the day. We could not have done this without Nicole and Jason from
CityWILD, whose energy, enthusiasm, and silliness are delightful. Thanks, CityWILD!

DeLaney Community Farm is a project of Denver Urban Gardens (DUG), and the farm staff, Deb, Faatma, Meg, Chad, and Heather, taught the young people all about what it takes to run a working farm. They are all amazing and wonderful people, who generously hosted our program and gave their time, attention, knowledge and precious veggies to make it fun and delicious. Thanks DUG! And Meg--special thanks for the bee dance.

We learned a ton from the six days in June, July, and August we spent on the farm. Here are some of my personal highlights:

• Without exception, everyone conquered the veggie challenge: to at least try every vegetable offered, many of which we harvested ourselves. The Hakurei turnips, carrots, onions, raspberries, and purple cauliflower were particular hits. We also made a different salad each day we were at the farm--a couple of our youth volunteers would decide what was ripe and yummy, harvest it and feed it to the crew!

It was amazing to be with the youth as they experienced the farm and learn about it together. For many it was their first time on a farm, and every aspect was fascinating. Others already knew a lot and shared their knowledge with the rest of us. We got to see tomato and squash plants grow from being tiny to huge , got to see the Delaney bees make progress building their hive, did some planting, harvesting, and mulching, and lots and lots of weeding. We've got lots of great photos of the young people, but are holding off posting them till we've got signed releases.

• We saw lots of wildlife: deer, snakes, rabbits, bees, and lots and lots of bugs. The snake that hangs out in the greenhouse was definitely everyone's favorite. Not to mention the butterflies on Faatma's hands!

We played lots of games. My absolute favorite was the "Meet My Weed" competition, in which each young person saved the biggest weed they'd pulled that day. They came up with a name for their weed, and presented a short skit about why their weed was the best. We had weeds named Barack Obama and Michael Jackson among other things, and one crafty participant wisely named his weeds after the judges. It was hilarious, and a great opportunity to let the young folks show off their brilliance and creativity.

• The youth participants did amazing drawings to help us come up with a t-shirt design for GreenLeaf. Each drawing was amazing in its own way, and we are working to bring elements of all of them together for our final design. Here's Sarah's "Food Nerd" themed drawing.

It's been a wonderful summer, and we are looking forward to GreenLeaf's growth--stay tuned for more. And, don't forget to subscribe to the blog.

Happy Harvests,