Boston MA — Back in the summer of 2019, Boston Youth Wrestling envisioned a space for cultivating our own food locally. Because we have a commitment to health in our program, planting the seed for equal access to food is important and planting a garden was the natural thing to do. Staff got the groundwork rolling: clearing, tilling, and aerating the barren land plot.
Cultivating the Next Generation of Coaches: Student-led Group Work Plants the Seed for Healthy Eating
By Jeanette Smith Americorps VISTA for BYW, September 4, 2020.
We are in year two of partnering with the Margaret Wright Community Garden at Fort Hill in Roxbury! Our Coaches in Training (CIT), the first secondary education age group to start gardening in the area, put on their gardening gloves to join the community gardeners to maintain our Boston Youth Wrestling (BYW) plot along with our home base garden. Now at summer’s end, we want to share what they have learned about their cornucopia of a harvest!
This year, our Executive Director, Bior Guigni, expanded the project to include a vacant overgrown landscape piece in front of the BYW office in Nubian Square. “We strive to have a program that not only teaches why healthy habits are important, but how to develop the skills and mindset to continue to provide for ourselves and for our community. Everyone should have access to fresh foods regardless of your circumstances.” Both plots took shape for the first time this year because of the CIT’s and their commitment to the Health and Wellness program. The transformation from weeds to tomatoes in our Warren garden plot is seen below.
Inspiring educational snippets focused on urban gardening guided the CITs efforts to grow for a better future and propelled the gardening project into a community-wide narrative. Above it all, just tasting the fruit of his labor, one CIT happily commented that, “When I got home from the Community Day, the first thing I did was make some scrambled eggs and put the plants that we grew inside of it. Such as the onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. I’m not going to lie, it was the best scrambled eggs I have ever had.”
The participants are asked to reflect on learning activities and one of them is about the Gangsta’ Gardener. To view his work and see what inspired our CITs’, watch Ron Finley here and here.
One CIT answered the question, “Was there anything that spoke to you about gardening and the importance of food availability?” by saying, “This guy
From there, the high school CITs took the plow of the gardening project and cultivated it into something to be shared. High school students worked virtually to pull together their new found produce focused knowledge to create a presentation with a biographical page of each plant.
“I learned a lot about the produce that we have in our 2 gardens. I learned about how they grow, how to maintain them, how we can incorporate them into foods or have recipes that are based on the produce.” One participant reflects on the overall experience of the gardening project.
Kale, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and even strawberries are among the 16 experimental produce items they tested in the New England hot summer climate conditions.
The team’s presentation- the Kale slide is pictured- documents their garden produce using virtual medium technology to collaborate. Their Gardening Guide Book which instructs on how to best tend to each fruit, vegetable, and herb being grown in their gardens is the end product.
To see the gardening project come to life and produce a small first crop is an unforgettable feat and a small first step in a much bigger project transforming in their minds. “Hungry For Change, Planting Some Knowledge, Plotting for the Future,” is the tagline our coaches created. Now they want to share the fruit of their labor with the community and that is how “The Hungry Wrestler” was born.
To learn what is “The Hungry Wrestler,” what is “Community Day” and try out a recipe from the CIT recipe book check back soon! Also, if you want to follow how our Health and Wellness Garden Project will be growing be sure to check back!