There are a many reasons that I count myself as one of the luckiest girls in the world to be here at the Regional Food Bank every day. Don’t worry, I’m not about to write out a list of them. I’m just going to mention one that’s really close to the top of that list.
If you don’t know what Urban Harvest is, I encourage you to click that link and read up on it. It’s awesome. I have a desk job with a 2.5 acre garden in the backyard. That’s pretty sweet.
I was just now back there, in the garden, strolling through our new ‘Tomato Forest.’ This field has been planted with a variety of tomato plants that produce only small tomatoes – the best size for small fingers, small mouths, and small tummies. There are 32 different varieties with suitably varying names. Morning Sun. Riesenstraube. Isis Candy. Wapsipinicon Peach. Hssiao His Hung Shih.
I’m pretty personally invested in the successful growth of these tomatoes. I’ve spent more than one morning digging my fingers into the soil that offers nourishment and support to their roots. Last time, I was surrounded by a couple dozen middle school students who’d come to lend a hand. After several hours of ensuring that the beds of our Tomato Forest were free of weeds, I’d imagine that I wasn’t the only one in the group who hoped that our work wasn’t wasted.
And soon, when the tomatoes have grown, our forest will be ready to host another kind of youth group. You see, we like to call this field of tomato plants a forest, but really, it’s a classroom. It’s a place where low-income children from urban neighborhoods will get to see for themselves where their food comes from – what a tomato is and what it takes to bring it into this world. They’ll get to learn about natural gardening, the life-cycle, nutrition. And, of course, they’ll get to experience the delight of eating a naturally grown tomato moments after picking it off of the plant. How did you like the Wapsipinicon Peach? You should really give the Isis Candy a try.
But the vision we have for the exciting future of our tomato forest can’t come to fruition without the dedicated service of the volunteer groups that are keeping the weeds pulled today. This is true for all of the ‘classrooms’ we have in Urban Harvest – our indoor strawberry garden, our fruit orchard, all of the raised vegetable beds – our volunteers keep all of them going for us. And I hope that as they do that, they’re able to share our vision. I hope that the teenager who’s kneeling in the dirt clearing bind weed from the base of a tomato plant today can feel a connection with the child who will soon be able to visit that same tomato plant to sample his or her first fresh tomato. Then it’s a classroom for both of them.
It can be for you, too. Here, I’ll give you the link again.
Come and give us a hand. It’ll give you a chance to see what I mean when I say that I’m one of the luckiest girls in the world to be here every day.