This article was featured in the Summer 2017 Quarterly.
By Claire Collie
For over fourteen years, Massachusetts Avenue Project’s (MAP) Growing Green program on Buffalo’s west side has employed young people, teaching them how to grow food and make positive changes in our local food system. The organization began as a single lot community garden, and has grown to an urban farm spanning 13 lots, with a high tunnel and greenhouse. By next growing season, MAP’s Farmhouse & Community Good Training Center will be complete, housing a commercial kitchen, dry and cold storage, classroom, and office space. This new space will open up opportunities to educate more people on food production and ways we can improve our food system.
A major goal at MAP is to simply show young people what food looks like when it is growing. Farm Education Coordinator Claire and MAP youth employees explore what’s growing. Photo taken by Birch Kinsey.
Produce grown on our urban farm is sold on our mobile market, a small, refrigerated box truck covered in veggie people. Our mobile market travels to neighborhoods in Buffalo that are food deserts – areas where fresh, affordable food is not available. Young people are involved at all steps – from crop production on the farm, to processing and prepping food for market, to the market itself and interacting with customers. Teenagers get to experience as many stages in our local food system as possible, so they become aware of the hard work it takes to produce food crops, the knowledge it takes to feed us, and their ability to make positive change. We work with a diverse group of young people. Some come from cultures in which maintaining a large kitchen garden in the backyard is common. For others, working on MAP’s urban farm is their first exposure to seeing what food actually looks like before it’s chopped, ground, baked or cooked. So, a major goal is to simply show young people what food looks like when it is growing….
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