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In partnership with community volunteers and community members, Cultivate Charlottesville builds food equity by growing and sharing fresh, organic produce with Charlottesville residents with limited financial resources.
Community Market Days are also a great place to reconnect with friends and neighbors, pick up some recipes, or watch a cooking demonstration.
Our list of 2020 Market Days is on our events page.
Fun Fact: Garden Aides grow over 9000 seedlings a year in our Hoop House for distribution at schools, UAC’s urban farm and area non-profits.
More info: CSG’s Middle School program includes a 4,000 square foot organic garden and 350 square foot hoophouse at Buford Middle School, which serves all seventh- and eighth-grade students during the school year and community youth and interns during the summer. During the school year, our full-time Garden Educator hosts two, daily garden aide classes, weekly visits from English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and functional skills classes, weekly workdays for PE students, quarterly units with Family and Consumer Science (FACS) classes, and annual units with science, math, art, and foreign language classes. During the summer, our staff hosts youth programming including a Garden-to-Table Camp with the PB&J Kitchen for Parks & Rec Summer Camp and Boys & Girls Club-Cherry Avenue Summer Program, weekly visits from Boys & Girls Club-Southwood and Greenstone on 5th, drop-ins from Region-10 Walker Summer Program, and an internship program for four Charlottesville High School youth supported in part by the Community Attention Youth Internship Program (CAYIP).The Buford garden hosts over 5,500 student visits to the garden and 700 hours of instruction annually.
FJN has collaborated with city councilors and Thomas Jefferson Health District to pass the 2018 Food Equity Initiative (FEI), which was the first local appropriation bill of its kind dedicated to tackling the root causes of food insecurity. In its first year, the FEI brought together 1,210 individuals representing residents for 8 neighborhoods, 45 non-profit organizations, 10 city departments, 5 healthcare institutions, 7 foundations, 8 state and federal partners, and 5 media outlets, for food system planning in our 5 advocacy action areas; healthy school foods, urban agriculture, affordable housing, transportation, and neighborhood food access & markets.
In November of 2019, the city approved a second year of the Food Equity Initiative and has supported efforts that build upon the foundation the Food Justice Network has laid for resident and youth ownership and self-determination within our local food system
We advance city-wide food equity through partnerships. FJN partnered with the City of Charlottesville in winning the Local Food, Local Places National Award for food system technical assistance. This award enabled our city to not only co-design key interventions guided by resident voice, but to build direct relationships with 8 state and federal agents representing departments within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These partnerships are critical to increasing our capacity to receive state and federal funding in support of food system’s transformation.
The Food Justice Network believes in igniting genuine dialogue and convening our city around a core vision. We host events such as round tables and conferences, deliver presentations on our research findings, and invite powerful food justice activists to inform our local movement alongside our Network Partners, who you can read more about on our Partners page.
Each year the students grow hundreds of pounds of produce in the school garden. With the support of our mobile kitchens, CSG Garden Coordinators facilitate cooking activities where students harvest the food, clean, prepare and cook the food right in the garden. When the mobile kitchen isn’t in use, students are able to harvest and bag up the produce that they want to take home.
Starting in fall 2020, student-led focus groups and initiatives at CHS, Buford and Walker ensure that students are positioned to lead the conversation around what they want to see in their cafeteria. Cultivate Charlottesville facilitates these Student Nutrition Committee Meetings in collaboration with city school administrators. A five-year grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation partners City Schoolyard Garden programs with Charlottesville City Schools Nutrition Department to increase fresh, from scratch, and healthy food options in our cafeterias, all led by student preference.
To celebrate Farm to School and Healthy Schools Week the first week in October, students experience a week-long menu of locally sourced food made from scratch. Cultivate Charlottesville coordinates with Charlottesville City Schools to connect students with local farmers through demonstrations, visits and taste-testing at their City Schoolyard Garden.
Harvest of the Month program is a unique partnership designed to build capacity, health and food security by increasing preference and exposure to fresh, healthy, local foods. Through an innovative and comprehensive program, youth, families, schools and community partners are introduced to a locally available crop each month. A backpack flyer with recipes, growing and nutritional information and a related library book goes home with each student in English, Arabic and Spanish.
We believe that building a pipeline for leadership to show up at the decision making table ready to invest their power and wisdom towards systemic change must be diverse and inter-generational.
Why diverse and intergenerational?
Systemic inequity in our food system, is not only about historical wrongdoings but also about traditions which have been passed down through generations. So undoing these inequities means that we must start thinking about our future leaders today, while cultivating the skills and capacity of those that have knowledge and direct experience of the past. We’ve found that working across generational lines, simultaneously builds a deeper understanding of systemic injustice while cultivating new traditions honoring voice, power, and decision-making among our multicultural grassroots leadership group.
How do we do this?
During the summer, City Schoolyard Garden runs an 8 week youth food justice unit in collaboration with Charlottesville Food Justice Network’s 12 week Community Food Justice Advocate Program. This past summer 7 youth interns and 4 community advocates worked alongside one another.
Fun fact: The City of Promise garden has been active for quite some time – only recently becoming one of our programming gardens.
More info: The City of Promise Garden is nestled in the heart of Charlottesville. Centrally located, it is adjacent to the City of Promise building on Page street and hosts an after-school garden club. To provide more exploratory opportunities for young planters, six raised beds were recently constructed. Now the number of raised beds stands at twelve. In partnership with UAC, foods grown in the other six beds are given away at no cost at UAC market days. As the youngest in our network of community gardens, the City of Promise garden is full of potential. Tapping into that potential, we hope to continue servicing our community for many years to come.
Fun Fact: We water our garden with runoff water from the school’s roof into a 1000 gallon water cistern
More Info: The garden at Burnley-Moran Elementary school is always a site to see! It is a large space that has 8 vegetable beds in the front portion separated by an octagonal-shaped garden classroom that leads to the back of the garden, which is home to a native plant area, an herb spiral, 5 raised beds, and the fairy garden. The garden also hosts a 3 part compost system, a bat house, 1 peach and 3 apple trees, a living sound barrier to block the noise from the highway, and a butterfly garden path leading to a bridge. Student design takes center stage at Burnley-Moran, as all of the spaces, from the chalkboard to the sound barrier, were designed by students.
Fun Fact: The CHS Urban Farming class focuses on small-scale farming that provides extra produce for UAC’s Community Market Days
More info: In 2013, a small group of students, staff and community volunteers began a slow and steady effort to clear the six-foot-tall weeds and that had taken over the existing small CHS garden. Since that time, a small farm has slowly started taking over the field behind the school and has brought us to a point where we are now using about half an acre of land consisting of over 3400 square feet of organic growing beds, a small fruit orchard, outdoor classroom, wildflower garden, hoop house, mobile chicken coop, post-harvest production area, shed and refrigerated trailer. The garden is largely managed by the Garden to Market and Urban Farming classes which walk students through the process of starting plants from seeds all the way through harvest. The Urban Farming class is taught through an entrepreneurial lens and students learn important business and marketing skills in addition to organic gardening skills. In the summer, CSG’s Food Justice Interns care for the garden and take the harvest to share with residents of local public housing communities in Charlottesville through coordination with the Urban Agriculture Collective. The garden is available to all teachers to use with their classes during the school day, either for instructional purposes involving food or environmental topics or simply providing a peaceful place to work outside. Students are also able to join an after school garden crew which focuses on food production and raising awareness around food justice issues.
Fun Fact: We work hard at maintaining our large pollinator garden
More info: At Clark Elementary, students, parents, teachers, and volunteers have created twelve raised vegetable garden beds on the site of a former playground area at the front of the school. Clark has a native pollinator garden next to the vegetable garden where students can learn about the importance of pollinators and how to create a pollinator habitat in an urban setting. Mary Craig, the Clark librarian, hosts monthly library garden lessons, where students read a book related to the Harvest of the Month fruit or vegetable and participate in hands-on garden activities. Clark students have been experimenting with composting, vermi-composting, planting native and heirloom plant species, and starting seeds indoors under grow lights.
Fun fact: Although our smallest garden, there is still room for 9 growing beds, a three-step compost system, a fruit tree, shed and water catchment system.
More info: Venable Elementary’s garden “courtyard” site is unique in its size and diversity of garden elements, with four raised garden beds, a rainwater catchment system, compost pile and pollinator garden. Venable has a robust garden program through PE classes, which plant vegetables, herbs and flowers in early spring, summer and fall. Classes engage in a variety of activities, including cooking, vermicomposting, starting seeds indoors and exploring the sensory elements surrounding them.
Fun fact: We are proud of our 10 (and counting!) fruit trees
More info: Jackson-Via Elementary has one of the longest standing gardens of the 6 elementary schools, with 14 raised beds, a small native fruit tree orchard and pollinator garden, and woodland trails created by landscape architect, Jessica Primm. Students frequently visit the garden during recess to weed, water, plant and explore. Teachers at JVE bring out students for weekly garden lessons focusing on seed starting, soil structure, plant anatomy, and cooking.
Fun fact: Our garden shed has a green roof!
More info: Greenbrier Elementary School has a long history of tending two courtyard gardens and introducing students to the joys of fresh vegetables. The larger vegetable garden at Greenbrier was constructed in 2012-13 and is home to a large U-shaped bed, two 20 foot beds, and ten 6 foot beds . The garden at Greenbrier currently engages students in every grade — from Kindergarten through fourth grade — in activities that include planting, harvesting, and learning about composting. Greenbrier’s garden shed also has a living bio-roof that demonstrates innovative design and the importance of mitigating water run-off. Students always look forward to free time in the garden to pick and eat the vegetables they’ve grown.
Fun Fact: Our garden has a mud kitchen and science center for Johnson students to explore.
More info: At the Johnson Garden there is a sign that says, “Respect Your Garden.” The importance of “respect,” for and in the Garden is a constantly reinforced theme. Additionally, creating a sense of ownership and responsibility is key to the children understanding the communal aspect of our Garden. The children take part in each and every aspect of the gardening process, from turning the beds and preparing them, to sowing seeds to harvesting vegetables and fruit and preparing them to eat. We concentrate on individual exploration and discovery at Johnson. Additionally, every visit to the garden children have the opportunity to practice measuring using tape measures and our produce scale. Magnifying glasses are available to investigate and discover the multitudes of critters and budding life on every visit. Garden harvests have been incorporated into school cooking lessons. We have classrooms actively vermicomposting, (worm composting). Most uniquely, the Johnson Garden has a Sensory and Exploration wheelchair accessible bed. The bed is 32” tall which allows all students an up close sensory and exploration experience.
Our food system does not serve us all equally. The result of this inequality can be seen in the health inequities apparent across race and class. Food justice calls upon us to develop tools and frameworks to adequately address these race and class food related inequities
We are a collaborative of over 35 organizations working at the intersection of food and education, public housing, church communities, urban agriculture, environmental protection, urban planning, farming, and health systems. We support one another as we craft food justice practices for our various sectors.
UAC continues 13 years of grassroots work growing on public and subsidized housing sites amplifying the contributions and decisions of Charlottesville residents faced with food insecurity. This grassroots urban farm grew out of the 2007 Quality Community Council’s Farm Initiative. The catalyst for the creation of the farm was to work in partnership with community residents at public and subsidized housing locations. Together, we worked to build bridges between Charlottesville neighborhoods where people from across the socio-economic spectrum could grow good food and healthier communities together.
At its peak, UAC managed four urban garden sites and has produced over 17,000 pounds of food in a single year. Owing to redevelopment pressure, UAC downsized in 2019 from approximately 1 acre of land to its current garden of 4,400 square feet located at Sixth Street and Monticello. We are working with planners and community members to find innovative solutions to grow food and meet food security needs in our community.
The Spring Seedling Project is a multi-faceted, youth-centered project that builds youth leadership and invests in neighborhood food security by engaging middle school students in planting, growing, and distributing seedlings to community organizations and Charlottesville City School (CCS) families and students.
Starting in February, hundreds of Buford Middle School students grow over 9,000 plants. Of those plants, 6,500 are distributed at no cost to schoolyard gardens, partner organizations, and students and their families including Urban Agriculture Collective Farms, IRC’s New Roots Program, Bread & Roses, City of Promise, Casa Alma, and Greenstone on 5th. The remaining 2,500 are distributed through the Spring Seedling Give-a-Way to the greater community.
Cultivate Charlottesville trains future leaders in food equity by mentoring Youth Food Justice Interns during summer months. For 8-weeks, interns spend 20 hours per week in the garden and in discussion groups learning about growing food, food access, food insecurity and food systems in Charlottesville.
Former interns have gone on to become active advocates in the food justice movement, through presentations to Charlottesville City Council, CCS school board, and the 2019’s Food System Conference in Savannah, GA. Former students have also joined the Cultivate Charlottesville staff, like Leon who you can read about on our staff page.