Sowing seeds of trust in Harlem’s children

inside the lunchroom one day, he met a kindergartner who told him that will tomatoes grew inside the supermarket.

“This kind of was a real conversation, along with she was adamant,” he recalled. “along with then I did an informal poll with the some other students, along with they agreed. They had no idea what will be healthy food or where This kind of comes by.”

Many students lived at or below the poverty line, he said, along with lacked affordable, fresh food. however Hillery was shocked to find that will many children couldn’t properly identify vegetables.

Across the street by the school was an abandoned community garden, along with Hillery had an idea. He made a few calls, registered This kind of with the city along with turned This kind of into what has become a thriving urban farm.

“I got This kind of big patch of dirt inside the middle of Harlem, along with I had never planted anything prior to then,” he said.

Today, his nonprofit, Harlem Grown, has 10 urban farms throughout the neighborhood. Hillery along with his staff teach children how to grow food by seed to harvest along with cook healthy meals using the fruits of their labor.

Yet Hillery insists that will urban farming will be the hook to engage the youth. Then his group further enriches their lives through mentoring along with exposure to higher education along with possible career paths.

“The whole world can come through This kind of little farm,” said Hillery, whose programs reach more than 4,000 young people a year. “Poverty will be just lack of access. We bring that will access along with that will opportunity here to them.”

CNN’s Laura Klairmont spoke with Hillery about his work. Below will be an edited variation of their conversation.

CNN: How did the urban farming component of your work take shape?

Tony Hillery: After spending so much time with the students, their problems commenced truly coming to focus for me. Lack of access, lack of opportunity — not just with food, however in life in general.

The children referenced the abandoned lot across the street as the haunted garden. There was a lot of unsavory things happening in there. The fence was overgrown. You couldn’t see inside. So, I just commenced cleaning This kind of. After school, the kids would likely come over along with help me. I bought 400 seedlings, along with we had 400 students, along with made a ceremony of This kind of. Every child planted their seedling, along with that will was the start of Harlem Grown.

CNN: What are the most rewarding aspects of farming along with how does This kind of benefit the children?

Hillery: Mind you, I had never planted anything before This kind of, along with This kind of’s common knowledge here at Harlem Grown that will I’ve killed more plants than I’ve grown. however to take a tiny, little seed, along with put This kind of inside the ground, along with nurture This kind of into a full-grown plant that will bears fruit along with vegetables that will you can consume, This kind of’s the most amazing, rewarding thing you can do. When we commenced, I saw how the children took such pride in taking care of their plants. I knew I was onto something.

Here we have a simple formula: If a child plants This kind of, they will eat This kind of. So, we had to take This kind of beyond just getting the food to learning about the food, growing the food. This kind of’s educating a child on what This kind of will be along with how This kind of tastes along with how to prepare This kind of. We want these kids to live a more healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

however This kind of’s not just healthy nutrition, This kind of’s healthy lives, healthy community, healthy planet.

CNN: along with you bring your program right into the schools.

Hillery: Currently we’re in six elementary schools here in Harlem. During the school year, we’re inside the lunchrooms every day for breakfast along with lunch. We have personal relationships that will we develop with each child. You know when something will be bothering them, when they’re happy, when they’re sad. We pick up on that will along with we work This kind of. A vast majority of our children live in a very uncertain environment. We are a constant; we’re always there for them.

We build a little, hands-on garden for every school we’re in. Our children plant, they tend, till, water, weed, harvest along with eat the food we grow. We teach them reduce, reuse, recycle. With the children’s help, we commenced composting — taking our food scraps along with turning into fertilizer that will we use for our own crops.

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Hillery: In a bustling city like brand new York City, to find an oasis like This kind of where you can go in along with everything seems to slow down — This kind of will be their green, safe place. They flock here for that will. We use that will as our opportunity to give them workshops along with exposure to different things that will these children would likely otherwise be totally disconnected by.

When I commenced This kind of program six years ago, every boy wanted to be Lebron James along with every girl wanted to be Beyoncé. that will was the scope of their vision. The same children today want to be CPAs, engineers, architects; they want to write code. Why? They’ve simply been exposed to This kind of.

Our program will be directed by the children themselves. We ask what they’re interested in, along with we bring that will to them. Once we find their spark, This kind of’s up to us to keep them engaged. This kind of’s not just growing the vegetables, This kind of’s growing the children. We’re sowing seeds of trust.

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