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Southwest Rockford Urban Initiative Reflects on First Growing Season

The Southwest Rockford Community Gardens, a Urban Initiative: Roots & Wings (Rockford) sponsored project, celebrated it's first Harvest celebration on October 29, 2010. The Rockford Register Star newspaper and WREX/Channel 13 news were both on hand to witness the youth reflect honestly and thoughtfully on their urban initiative experience.

Right before the harvest celebration officially kicked off, youth from YouthBuild Rockford and Eco-Advocates joined together to reflect and brainstorm on their first growing season with the Urban Initiative: Roots & Wings (Rockford). During this brainstorming session conducted by Roots & Wings Program Director Danica Hoehn, students expressed their desire to expand their urban initiative project to include more garden space and an expanded youth/community outreach component.

The purpose of the reflection portion of the session was to "reflect on our garden experience & think about what we want for the future." During this part of the session, youth expressed the following:

The garden experience "taught us how to be better caretakers of the garden so we will be better caretakers of our children." "It was good to learn how to sell what we grew at farmers' markets."

Youth remarked that they would make the following changes to their urban initiative:
"Make gardens bigger with wider paths, more young kids to teach how to grow food, eat better, & be responsible, and more gardens all over Rockford."

      After everyone had a chance to reflect, everyone gave their opinion of what good food and good leadership is. We then gave our opinion of what Rockford would look like if we had both.Youth listed the following as examples of good food:

        "Greens, sweet peas, grapes, grapefruit, broccoli, sweet potatoes, fried okra, pumpkin chili, and organic foods." They also said that good food "builds your strength mentally, gives health, energy, and strength without negative side affects, makes you live longer; that's why I love the garden."

        According to some of the youth, good leadership is "good communication, taking responsibility for yourself, your family, and your community, constructive criticism, being a good role model, and treating others the way you want to be treated."

        "Good health and you feel good" was the simple response to the question, "What happens if you have good food?"

        Students were then asked "What happens if you have good leadership?" Some of the answers were, "Other people look up to you, people are able to follow,  and people respect you."

        When asked "what happens if you have both good food & good leadership?" The responses were "good community, more jobs, stronger youth, more people coming together, Rockford will be a better place to stay, people would not be hungry, gardens would be everywhere," and "Rockford would be more positive."

        As you can tell from the youth's remarks, they have learned a tremendous amount so far and look forward to expansion of both garden space and outreach.

        Southwest Rockford Community Garden