By Roger Schuettke

May 16th, 2017

Last week I traveled down to Olympia to visit the awesome and awe-inspiring organization GRuB, attending their 3-day GRuB Institute. The Institute is part of GRuB’s pollination efforts, sharing their organizational model and resources to other organizations using urban agriculture as a tool for youth empowerment. There is no easy way summarize everything that I took in over those few days, but what I can tell you is that it affirmed the process Kali and I are taking to launch our vocational training and employment program. Through GRuB’s employment program and The GRuB School, high school kids grow their own produce to sell through a market stand and CSA, cook for themselves, and take food home to their families. They additionally build gardens for low-income families in the Olympia area.

Arriving at the Institute I was met with people from Ferguson, MI, Anchorage, AK, Sacramento, CA, and Sequim, Maple Falls, Tacoma, Nisqually, Eatonville, Chehalis, and Olympia, WA all coming together to learn about the GRuB model. It is clear that the GRuB program is not about “saving” a specific population. Everyone is treated as an equal there, regardless of their family structure or socioeconomic class. The program is designed to benefit everyone who participates in it both intellectually and emotionally. With that said, Growing Alliances summer will be about staying focused on creating a culture that doesn’t make foster youth feel like they are “less than” the rest of the population. We will be focused on providing the resources our group needs to identify and solve problems–problems within ourselves, problems within our community and problems within our relationship to the food system.

A few of the specific things that we are taking away from the GRuB model have to do with designing this culture that will propel us towards success. The first thing we will do at the beginning of our program is to create a community contract. This contract will be designed by all of us, for all of us, laying out the foundation for how we want to interact with each other within the space. We will use this contract to hold each other accountable throughout the summer. The formation of this contract starts with identifying our own individual goals for the summer, then identifying community goals for the summer, and finally asking ourselves what we need from our peers in order to reach those goals.

Another process we will be taking away that will drive our program is the three tenants: Grow Food, Grow Self and Grow Community. If all of our work is centered around these three tenants then we can affirm that we will support healthy minds, engaged leaders, and be able to solve food justice problems within our community.

I cannot express how stoked I am to get into action this summer, get dirty in the soil and build relationships with our team. I am more confident than ever that we are creating a program that will benefit the youth we work with, our community as a whole, and myself as well.

Thank y’all for reading and for all of your support!