Back in April of last year, I was asked to write a little blurb about what our work at New Image is about, how it relates to the core mission of Credo and where it fits in the community. This is a snapshot of the development as I saw it progress:
April, 3, 2012
Here’s a little bit about what we’re doing:
We built four raised beds with New Image Youth Center in Parramore on 10/10/10. Over the past 18 months, we’ve successfully grown three seasons’ worth of produce from tomatoes to strawberries. The children have taken ownership of the beds. When I first started coming to New Image, the kids didn’t show a lot of interest in working in the dirt. They wanted instantaneous results and didn’t understand the growing process or which plants bore what. I would come out on Wednesdays, every Wednesday and garden. There weren’t any requirements of anyone helping, no obligation. I think that got their attention. Work with me or don’t, I’m doing this either way…letting them watch, seeing stuff start to grow and produce. Slowly, one at a time pretty much, a steady group picked up on why someone would want to grow their own food. It was kind of momentous when we got to the point of acceptance on both sides (shut up). I don’t have a lot of experience coming into an environment like Parramore. I remember thinking on the first bunch of visits, “Who do I think I am?” In my gut, I had zero desire to fuck it up, kwim…kind of screw the kids up by me coming in and making a big production of salvation. It almost made me run the other way. Nobody wants any part of that, lol. Ben was, and still is, paramount in all of that, of course. In his core, he eats, sleeps and breathes what he talks about. It’s inspirational.
I’ve had a lot of experience with kids, in general; I wanted to establish trust and accountability more than grow plants successfully. I wanted them to make their own decisions with regards to what we plant, how they learn, that kind of thing. We would read a seed packet together and then I’d let them plant it. In the beginning, no one followed the planting instructions, lol. They planted as many seeds as possible in one spot. More is better, right? And then they’d see the plants fail because they didn’t thin them out or follow the directions. I enjoyed when that light came on for them. Now they’re invested and pay attention; they want a favorable outcome. And as a result, they’re more into the planning of a garden, how to capitalize on production and such.
What struck me with New Image is that it’s this bit of perfection inside of Parramore. I’m not messing with you. Shanta Barton Stubbs, the director, gives her heart and soul to the group she has. There’s consistency and reliability and structure. The world outside of the center, directly outside of it, is chaotic and disruptive. It’s like a haven that’s genuine. A lot of times, I’m just in awe of it and thankful to witness that kind of reality. It’s meaningful and brings hope. I love that it’s so real and dynamic. It’s grassroots at its best. Shanta doesn’t take a salary. She works as a LMHC to keep her lights on. The center’s a nonprofit; she’s got a healthy dose of pride that the kids sense and replicate.
So the evolution of all of that is the booth at the College Park Farmer’s Market. We’ve seen what grows; what doesn’t. Now it’s time to take the next step. The kids own it; their ideas guide what we sell, how we sell it, design, et cetera. There’s a strong group of four that manage the farmer’s market aspects. I am soaking up the joy that comes with getting to know them on this level, it’s so fun. They have such natural strengths and charisma. We have a financial analyst showing them the basics of running a business and money management. The trick now is to keep the booth focused on our product and that it’s valid and worthwhile; it’s slippery not getting into the pity territory when the kids tell their story. Last week was a little rough with that; we have to refocus.
That’s pretty much the story in a nutshell. I’d love to chat with you any time about any of it. A farmers market in Parramore would be the ultimate. I bet it would fit nicely in the back of New Image. Just thoughts.