OST Voices Episode #18 | Growing, Making, and Eating Food Together By Emily Richardson, Youth Programs Director, Common Good City Farm

OST Blog Series
April 27, 2022
Blog Post

Youth cutting vegtibales from the garden

Everyone knows kids can be picky eaters, but when they come to Common Good City Farm, they are eager to try new recipes–especially when they’ve helped grow, harvest, and chop the veggies for each dish. Even better, young people who participate in our LEAF program bring home the recipes to make with their families. Some recent favorites include spring rolls with dipping sauce, vegetable stew, Greek yogurt dips, and energy seed balls. Are you hungry yet?

Each Thursday and Sunday, we welcome young people to the farm to learn and eat. First we have a discussion about a garden- or food-related topic, then we cook a recipe together related to that topic. When a particular crop is in season, our young chefs also have the opportunity to harvest the vegetables themselves. Kids are really excited to chop vegetables and eat what they’ve chopped and measured. Our classes are completely hands-on. I admit not every recipe is popular, but we haven’t had any complete failures! Everyone is willing to try it when they’ve helped make something, and most kids like the result.

Feeding the Neighborhood

Common Good City Farm is a half acre urban farm located in Ledroit Park, right in the middle of the neighborhood. Our aims are to increase food access and nutrition education and to build community around the farm space, especially for our neighbors who may have less access to those things. We hold a weekly seasonal produce market–using a pay-what-you-can model–where we offer what we grow as well as bring in food from other farms to make sure our customers have a variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from.

In 2020 and 2021, we assembled hundreds of recipe kits including fresh ingredients and distributed them at pop-up markets for families with kids of all ages to take home and make with their families. We also distributed cooking tool kits to many families with kids, so we knew that young people had some basics like aprons, cutting boards, and kid-safe knives to use when making our recipes. Even though we’re back to having in-person classes, we realized that giving out the recipe kits was a great way to introduce nutritious food to more families, so we’ve continued to do that. We partner with the Ledroit Park Civic Association, Friends of Ledroit Park, and local mutual aid groups and organizers to incorporate kid-friendly elements to community events. We’ll take any opportunity to share our food with the neighborhood!

Educating Young People and Engaging Adults

LEAF (Learning for the Environment, Agriculture and Food) is different from many out-of-school-time programs in a few ways. While our curriculum is primarily geared toward elementary-aged kids, we don’t turn anyone away. If someone wants to participate, we’re happy to include them! Because it’s a drop-in program that doesn’t require pre-registration, we reach a wider range of young people. Kids can just find their way to us or parents can bring them. We want everyone to feel welcome at the farm.

If we had more funding we would love to add another day of classes or just keep the garden open and supervised so more young people could come in to help with whatever tasks are on the list for the day. That would give them another chance to interact with our educators and be a part of what’s growing on the farm.

In addition to giving out recipe kits, we also engage adults in the neighborhood with nutrition workshops, an herbalism training program, and volunteer opportunities to learn about urban farming. When parents come to pick up their kids from LEAF, we always offer them a sample of the food we prepared, and talk with them about it. They have great ideas for what spice or what ingredient they would add to the recipe if they made it at home, and we send home the recipes and encourage them to make it their way. Our goal is always to positively influence nutrition for everyone in our community.

Connect with Common Good City Farm on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.