Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reaching out at the Homeless Garden Project: Week 2

Here's the low down of how a typical FoodWhat?! week works...
Tuesdays and Wednesdays the crew is at the FoodWhat farm located at the UCSC farm and garden.
Thursdays we work at the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz.
Fridays we head out to Freewheelin' Farm.

Each day is an awesome and different experience. Let's talk about

From left: 1) Don Lessard, an HGP employee, gave helpful guidance to the FoodWhat crew and worked with them side by side. 2) Abel Johns clears the way for garden beds. 3) Mason Melander bunches lavender for the CSA business.
4) Ana Sumano piles weeds into her wheelbarrow.

Every Thursday the FoodWhat crew goes out to the Homeless Garden Project to lend a hand on this unique Santa Cruz farm. The Homeless Garden Project is a program that provides job training and transitional employment to previously homeless individuals. The trainees of the program learn valuable job skills, gain confidence, and reach out to fellow community members during their time at the garden. Sound a bit like what FoodWhat has to offer?? (wink, wink). The mission of the Homeless Garden Project strives to:

- Bring Together people from throughout the community in the beauty and security of their certified organic garden.
- Practice and Teach principles of economic and ecological sustainability through classes and hands-on experience
- Provide homeless men and women job training and transitional employment

FoodWhat is lucky enough to work with the HGP and form new friendships with this community. Our first day at HGP, the trainees welcomed us and expressed thanks to the FoodWhat crew for all their hard work and youthful energy. When unfinished tasks pile up at HGP, FoodWhat and HGP trainees work together to get the job done.

HGP trainee, Michael Curry, laughs with FoodWhat crew during daily stretches.

Opening day of HGP, a seasoned trainee gave genuine advice to the crew of teens. He described the immense impact the homeless garden had on his life, at a time when his future seemed rocky. He told us how his work at the garden gave him a strong sense of purpose and confidence in his skills. The group of trainees will be valuable comrades to the FoodWhat crew and will show the teens how to get on a meaningful track and be be positive, pro-active leaders in their communities.

From top left: Sam Gouveia, Erik Bucio, Kayla Kropp, and Joan Enriquez on lavender duty for HGP.

It was really awesome to see the crew work so well under the direction of the trainees. They helped hack down weeds five feet tall, skim garden beds, plant onions, and cut hundreds of lavender bunches. The skill and unity of the FoodWhat workforce was an impressive sight to see, and by the end of the day they had made friendships with a crowd they had never gotten to know before. Hopefully the crew will overcome any negative stereotypes about those who have been homeless; because as the trainees have showed us, they are knowledgeable, skilled, and hilarious individuals who are pretty similar to the FoodWhat crew themselves.

From left: 1) Natasha Riordan clears weeds for a future flower bed. 2) Jacques Jackson plants onion seedlings. 3) Edgar Garcia helps Kayla Kropp build her own planter box out of old wooden palettes. Garcia was skilled in construction and helped the rest of the FoodWhat crew in building their boxes.

Link to Homeless Garden Project Resources:

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