We provide empowering, reflective, and dignified jobs for youth in our community. The youth we work with act as both students and employees, engaging in collective practices of problem solving, self awareness, and developing an understanding of their role in the community.
We employ a plethora of critical pedagogical techniques from systems thinking to upstream problem solving to critical experiential learning. We use food as a vector for generating economy AND engaging youth in the work we do. The basic learning tools associated with the practice of growing food extend far beyond the conventional math, science, business, and social skills. We extend it into the realm of agency development, self-worth, and developing community. We don't just use food as an endpoint; our primary focus isn't to build individual social mobility to escape the hood, and our programs aren't run through the conventional lens of the "youth leadership development" rubric. You don't have to leave your community to live in a better one! We use food as a way to generate community power to improve and transform OUR community. We want our youth to become the next generation of farmers, organizers, leaders, and educators who begin building the long-term movement.
To put it bluntly, "Look, I know school sucks but so does selling crack on the corner. Let me show you how you can make more money, not worry about the cops or getting shot by rivals, by selling organic tomatoes to Whole Foods Market uptown and mustard greens outside of the churches in your community to the old, ladies, teachers and pastors who want to support you making a way out of no way."
Domestic Study Abroad
Since 2009, we've worked with over 15,000 domestic and international service learners, and have helped incubate at least 10 mission-aligned projects across the nation.
If 1 out of every 200 visitors we get brings the experiences and understanding they develop with us back to their hometown, and builds projects that are rooted in whole systems transformation, it's worth it. If we can inspire, facilitate, and empower people across the country to engage in this work, focused on tangible, achievable community transformation AND producing enough food to substantially impact regional economies and reclaim control over food systems, we can collectively generate a profound paradigm shift.
We began with 20 donated strawberry plants, which led to 50 tomato plants and youth employment programs. That led to Non-Profit Industrial Complex money, and we learned that the work needed to generate power in our community necessitates self-reliance. We grew more food, and starting selling high-end restaurants in our city. We generated enough revenue to fund an after-school program on our own. In the summer of 2012, we grew 6,500 eggplant plants on a 1/4 acre.
We need to grow enough food to make a deep impact on the food system, transitioning our unsustainable and disposable community economy away from the tourism and oil industry to one that is predicated on empowering, dignified employment and sustainability. During the summer of 2016, we expanded our property size from 1.5 acres to 3. We're growing more food, with a vision to grow enough to feed our entire community.
In collaboration with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, we have launched a pilot program on four city-owned properties directly adjacent to our current operation. With 30 goats, and 350 feet of electric fencing, our goats are literally eating down the blight. We're working to develop a plan to scale -- both combatting blight and developing an ethic of care in our community.
The "New" Blair Grocery
We're in the initial planning stages of opening a general store across the street from the B&R Grocery building we use as our community/educational space, that sells fresh, local affordable, and familiar produce, meats, and dried goods. Our youth will play significant roles in running both the grocery store and the farm where the food is primarily sourced. We'd like it if our grandmothers could shop at the store where their grandchildren work. We aim to install a commercial community teaching kitchen, allowing us to sell prepared foods and added value items.
More information on the "New" Blair Grocery to come!