By Miriam W. Hodgman
View photo slideshow below.
This past weekend I found myself driving through Reno’s architectural barrage of bling on my way to the Urban Roots Farm for their 4th and largest annual fundraiser, “Art, Food and Roots.” Rolling past the downtown’s patchwork-quilt of gaudy and soiled, glittery and faded landmarks, it was easy to muse about what the future holds for the Reno community. What will be at the center of our “hearth,” the values, ethical concerns, hopes and dreams that make northern Nevada a healthy place to raise children, and a place they’ll also wish to invest in?
One answer is Urban Roots’ vision to grow healthy minds, bodies and communities through place-based and seed-to-table education. Part of the dynamic local food movement, Urban Roots introduces children to where the food on their plates comes from (farmers!), empowers them to grow their own food and make healthy eating choices, and opens their eyes to the possibility of joining the hub of small local food producers.
Jeff Bryant, executive director of Urban Roots, explained it this way: “We are part of a pendulum shift towards a healthy future for our community, starting at the roots. It’s beautiful to see the children in our programs connect to raising, harvesting and happily eating their own vegetables.”
During “Art, Foods and Roots,” staff and volunteers engaged guests in guided tours of the Farm. Megan Fischer, a native Nevadan and AmeriCorps VISTA member, described her work with children in the “Seed to Plate Summer Camp,” where participants learn how to harvest and prepare their veggies, care for animals and many other exciting educational activities that offer campers a holistic experience.
Megan said, “When we ask kids where their food comes from, their first response is usually the store. When they come to camp or participate at one of our eight school partner sites they often grow and eat vegetables they’ve never tried before, like Rainbow Chard or Dinosaur Kale. It’s exciting to see the epiphany as they make the connection between seeds, soil and what they eat.”
Urban Roots has grown quickly since its founding in 2009. The Farm has been operating for a little over a year. Urban Roots relies on both its dedicated staff and volunteers like Megan Fischer to achieve its mission. In September, 2013, this will include twenty new AmeriCorps members, to work in the FarmCorps, a service learning initiative focused on economic opportunities, education and healthy futures in northern Nevada.
“Art, Foods and Roots” is Urban Roots’ largest fund-raiser of the year. Supporters who attended the farm fresh féte at the 4th Street Bistro, not only enjoyed a meal prepared by renowned chef Natalie Sellers, and guest speaker Gary Romano, author of Why I Farm, they also contributed to fueling the nonprofit’s operations throughout the winter.
Jeff Bryant was happy with the event’s success and the community’s enthusiastic support for Urban Roots. He invites anyone who missed the event to become better acquainted by hopping on the website www.urgc.org, calling him at 775-636-5105, or emailing [email protected].
Begun in 2009, Urban Roots now operates its own campus and demonstration permaculture farm just west of downtown Reno. With a strong team and dedicated board, it works with area schools, families and the greater community with the vision of changing the way kids eat and learn through school gardens, teacher trainings, farm education and kids camp activities.