Seeds of Freedom

Project Size: Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $3,000

Letter of Intent:

Historically, community gardens have served as a means of accessing fresh produce when prices are prohibitively high, such as during times of war, recession or, as we’re seeing, pandemic. However, in a city marked by staggering rates of displacement and homelessness, prices on natural, organic, and healthy food are consistently inhibitory regardless of the larger context. This is especially true for the over 200 University of Washington students and 1,100 young adults in Seattle struggling to obtain food daily. For this reason, we are requesting funding to support the development of, “Seeds of Freedom” (SoF), a youth-led community garden initiative aiming to reduce food insecurity through the building of an edible garden in tandem with student/community education in social justice, ecology, and holistic wellness. As a collaborative effort developed in partnership with the Doorway Project and YouthCare, our project is intentionally designed to nurture community cohesion through shared space. SoF will be located outside of the University District Youth Center (UDYC), and will serve as a site of applied learning for a blended cohort of UW students and young adults with lived experience of homelessness. SoF Learners will be compensated for their participation in the project and will work as a cohort to grow and share food while building a vibrant social and natural ecosystem that encourages every individual’s potential for growth and renewal. By locating this garden off campus, in a space that offers resources to youth experiencing homelessness, we are uniquely positioning ourselves to provide opportunity for community engagement and support experiential learning. UDYC aims to affirm and empower black and brown young adults (ages 18-24) through Healing Focused Engagement that centers on participants’ holistic selves and wellbeing. Seeds of Freedom will support this mission through programming that goes beyond physical wellbeing to build social capital for clients. This mutually beneficial collaboration between the university and the surrounding neighborhood will foster connectedness, belonging, and community that transcends campus boundaries. As society acclimates to mandates on social distancing, we have taken those guidelines into consideration. The 600 sq ft plot provides space for up to 2-3 gardeners to safely distance while completing tasks. Although the space will be open to the greater community to enjoy and socially interact all years, specific hours will be reserved for SoF Learners from January through June 2021. Outside of their time gardening, a set cohort SoF Learners will engage in six-months of co-curricular education around food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing. This curriculum will be informed by the pedagogy of Paolo Freire, emphasizing consciousness raising, sustainability, and social justice. Depending on the state of affairs, the education component will be facilitated either at UDYC or virtually via Zoom. As a site of UW/Community interaction, student-learners will take away experiences in organic agriculture, community building, social enterprise, and a deeper understanding of how we can address homelessness. Evaluating Success Comprehensive process evaluation will be utilized to understand the benefit of the garden and associated educational programming. Specifically, we will evaluate the prevalence of community awareness and engagement, barriers to participation, food security and personal characteristics such as SoF Learner satisfaction and staff perspectives of garden location. Semistructured interviews will be conducted, after which identified gaps will be addressed through programming recommendations and changes. As video has quickly become the medium through which most people consume content, SoF will work in partnership with UDYC creative engagement programming to create a visual representation of impact. This video will be shared with the larger community including all donors, and partners. Sustainable Development Goals At its most basic level sustainability is disruptive, it is a constant work in progress. It isn’t just about using less; it is about creating more. More compassion, more connection, more opportunity to live in a world where shared spaces matter. Seeds of Freedom believes that gardens don’t simply equate to food. They equate to an improved relationship to the natural environment, ourselves, and others. They equate to a sense of power over a part of our lives that we can design for ourselves. They equate to a sense of purpose and a site of resistance to isolation and rejection. Gardens equate to freedom. The Freedom to Survive. The implementation of SoF directly contributes to the achievement of Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): “Health and Wellbeing” by strengthening local food sources and improving access to healthy foods and nutrients. In this way we are addressing hunger in vulnerable communities (SDG 2, Zero Hunger). Sustainable literacy and professional skills will be gained directly through the activities involved in designing, implementing, and maintaining the garden. Additionally, SoF Learners will be directly compensated for their work while developing transferable skills for future employment (SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth). The Freedom to Thrive. Utilizing the “Plant, Cook, Organize!” curricula, developed and made available by Planting Justice in Oakland, SoF will cultivate an environment of lifelong learning opportunities for each cohort (SDG 4, Quality Education). The curricula will include information on: food systems, permaculture design, companion planting, healing justice, land and farmworker rights, integrated pest management, cover cropping, cooking, and the historical timeline of the food justice movement. The Freedom to Challenge. Eating organic, locally grown vegetables and fruit will assist youth and young adults in raising consciousness of the interrelationships between a healthy body and a healthy environment (SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production). It is our hope that through direct engagement around economic inequality and food access we will empower young adults to address the structural inequities that have become embedded in the industrialized food system (SDG 13, Climate Action) and to advocate for a more sustainable and equitable Seattle (SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities)

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Courtney Jackson