In 2023 Cultivate Community Engagement Cohorts talked to hundreds of community members through door to door surveys, in depth listening circles, and a community roundtable. We asked, “Would you like to see an urban farm site at Booker T. Washington Park?” and “What would your vision for an Urban Agriculture Collective farm site at Booker T. Washington be?”.
Read “White Paper on Building a Healthy and Just Local Food System”
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.
Over the years FJN has collaborated with partners and community to develop reports that tell the story of community voice and our work. Check out these documents:
The Power to Grow is a community engagement, awareness, thought leadership, and policy action campaign with a goal of securing public space for urban agriculture, primarily led by and for BIPOC residents. The campaign will also educate the public about historical inequities in Charlottesville, explore community support for an Urban Agriculture Collective farm site in Booker T. Washington Park, and ask city council for an area of Booker T. Washington Park to be dedicated for community-based urban agriculture.
This campaign is designed to illuminate the issue of land access and ownership as the foundation for economic and social wellbeing, especially in regards to urban agriculture and the Charlottesville Black community. This project continues the work started by residents of public and subsidized housing in 2007 when they built a farm site at Friendship Court in order to grow and share food and power. The Power to Grow aims to secure long term leases for urban agriculture space in a historically Black Charlottesville Park. It also aims to advance racial equity by spreading awareness of Black land loss and gentrification in the city. These goals were articulated as a priority from residents in the 2019 Local Places events and the 2021 Food Equity Initiative Policy Platform.
Our intention of the Power to Grow Campaign is to engage the community to determine their wants and needs for a garden in Booker T. Washington Park and to effectively convey the community’s support for this project to council..
City of Promise is in the heart of the 10th & Page neighborhood and Westhaven Community with a mission to end generational poverty, and to foster a culture of achievement in which all children in our community graduate from high school, ready for college or career. Cultivate Charlottesville has been partnering since 2015 to host a garden at 908 Page Street to engage youth and community.
We believe that a pathway for leadership that activates spaces where community leaders can invest their power and wisdom towards systemic change is strongest when it is community centered, diverse, and inter-generational.
Why diverse and intergenerational?
Systemic inequity in our food system affects our community at every stage of life. 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.
What is a community engagement cohort?
Community engagement is not just a one time event or festival. At Cultivate we aim to create and implement systems and practices that actively engage grassroots community members across the scope of Cultivate’s work. Launched when students in the Buford MIddle School Garden Aide Class said they wanted to continue to work in their school garden over the summer, we began building paid opportunities for youth and adults. These cohorts come together as teams, build food justice knowledge and capacity, and work across a specific time frame, with specific goals in mind.
Youth Food Justice Interns (high school students): City Schoolyard Garden program hosts an eight-week summer youth food justice program for up to twelve city students. Youth care for the schoolyard gardens, cultivate team building practices, and have two core capacity building units on food justice and healthy school meals.
Food Justice Apprentices (young adults around 18-24): Food Justice Apprentices are part of a cross-program cohort designed to build leadership opportunities for young adults who have come through the K-12 Cultivate initiatives while strengthening Cultivate’s effectiveness and community voice. The Food Justice Apprentices have three primary responsibilities including: supporting a specific program area of Cultivate’s work, advancing a cross-program advocacy campaign, and building capacity as a cohort of peer learners and leaders. The Food Justice Apprentices also support special projects across the organization as needed.
Food Justice Community Advocates (resident leaders -adults and elders): The Food Justice Community Advocates cohort aims to amplify community leadership and be a bridge with city leaders around critical issues of food equity and racial justice in Charlottesville. This paid six-month cohort has been focusing on The Power to Grow campaign and engaged over 300 residents in building a vision for urban agriculture in Charlottesville.
Food Equity Initiative Policy Platform
The Food Equity Initiative Policy Platform was developed with input from over 300 individuals, 125 youth, and 10 city departments.Through six core planks, the FEI Policy Platform outlines community recommendations for building a healthy and just food system including strategic values, funding priorities, and concrete goals, policies, ad practices for City Departments and partnering organizations to deepen their capacity for food equity.
Michele Gibson has returned to Cultivate after previously working as a Community Advocate as the Community Advocate Lead for our 2023 Cohort.
Amyah Limbacher was born and raised in Charlottesville, VA. She is a proud big sister to her younger siblings. She has been with Cultivate for four years, starting out as an intern in high school and now a Cultivate Apprentice working with the City Schoolyard Garden program. Her favorite part of the job is working with the youth and teaching kids about how gardening ties in with the food system. As a former CCS student, she loves seeing how things are changing and encourages students to use their voices. Having grown up in a single-parent home, she has seen food insecurity firsthand and wants to be a part of the change in our food landscape. She is thorough, passionate, and determined in her work. Amyah is also a first-generation college student working towards a business associate degree. She aspires to one day be an entrepreneur and a flower farmer.
Calista Barbour has been a part of Cultivate for four years on and off. She loves being outside in the garden, it helps her feel grounded. Being a part of Cultivate has helped stimulate her creativity and helps her to see the importance of food equity and abundance. Coming from a low-income family that was mostly dependent on government assistance, she knows what it feels like to be food insecure. It feels good to stand up for food justice. As a new mother, she feels more connected being able to have her daughter be a part of an organization that she has been with since middle school. She aspires to be is more bold, assertive, and driven in my day-to-day life. Calista also loves music and art.
Emmanuel Quezada-Romero (or Manny) has been working with Cultivate for several years. He moved from Mexico to Arizona to Virginia and has had a life full of experiences. At the age of 12, he started working with Cultivate as a student volunteer. He worked with Cultivate throughout his school career as a Garden Aide and a Food Justice Youth Intern and learned many things. In school he was in chess club and is a very fast learner. He is quick to adapt, a jack of all trades. Although he is not a master of all things, he is handy and has a lot of skills that he puts to good use in helping others. Manny believes that life is as fun or boring as you make it, whatever effort you put into it is what you will get back from it.
Rosia Parker is originally from Washington, DC but has been living in Charlottesville, VA for many years. She is the mother of three grown children, one grandson, and she has been a mother and Godmother to countless other children. She was led to Cultivate some years back when helping Shantell Bingham on food justice issues. Rosia was a Community Advocate in 2021 and is glad to return for the 2023 Community Advocate Cohort. Her experience as a civil rights activist fighting for social justice and racial justice since middle school along with her work helping to create, shape and implement policy and procedures is why she chose this work. She cares about her people, black and brown people, disadvantaged communities, and those in low wealth neighborhoods because, historically, these groups of people have never been treated fairly. She wants equity and equality to be fair across the board. The garden is her sanctuary.
KJ Howard has been with Cultivate for about 6 years, since 7th grade. He was a student intern, apprentice and most recently was hired on staff as FJN Associate. His love for gardening and working as an intern for Cultivate is what made me want to join the Community Advocates Cohort. He cares about food justice because during his childhood he experienced food insecurity and has a deep level of understanding about issues around food in Charlottesville. KJ is a kind and confident leader. FUN FACT: KJ was president of the Mandarin-Chinese Club at CHS for three years.
Ashley Freeman is a Charlottesville native youngest of three. She is a graduate of CHS and has four amazing daughters who she devotes all of her time to. In 2019, Ashley joined the PHAR board and served for one year which got her more connected to the community as a resource for folks. She is a go-getter, always looking to grow, and makes sure that she provides for her girls. Ashley first got involved with Cultivate through Garden Coordinator, Yolonda Adams, and has started a garden of her own with her daughters.
Rosa Key is a native of Charlottesville who has lived in the 10th and Page neighborhood for many years and has been working with the community for 25 years. She was one of Cultivate’s first Community Advocates and has been working with us for 5 years. In 2023, she was awarded by the CNE as a Community Philanthropy Champion. She is a good teammate and can work with anybody. She advocates for her community, especially the seniors on her street.
Farida Usmanova was born in Azerbaijan and went to Turkey to study. She has always been a lifelong learner which is why she came to the United States to improve her skills and to study. She spent eight years in USA first in New York and California before moving to Charlottesville. Although she didn’t know English before coming to states, she was patient and trusted herself. Now in Charlottesville she is happy to still be learning which is why she decided to become a Community Advocate. Her goal in life is to learn new things cooking, languages, cultures—all the things that make her happy. Every day she wakes up with the motivation to learn something new.
Mary Anderson is a first year Community Advocate. She likes to meet new people and learn more about the garden. She has enjoyed the fellowship of working with this group, learning about the history of Washington Park, and getting to engage with people interested in Power to Grow. Mary is trained in fast food and operates cleaning business. She is outgoing, outspoken, considerate, patient, understanding, athletic, happy, and smiling. She is a genuine and forward-thinking leader who works hard and brings a natural curiosity to her position.
Each year Cultivate Charlottesville joins hundreds of organizations in a shared journey of learning and charting a course of action to dismantle racism in our food system and our world.
The Racial Equity Challenge happens each year in April and can be a vital tool to:
Watch the 2023 Racial Equity Challenge Launch Webinar here or read the transcript. You can also check out the 2023 prompts here.
We believe that equitable approaches to building a food system that works for all, values the voices of those that are oftentimes left out of decision-making conversations and leadership roles. The goal of the Community Advocate Initiative is to strengthen the capacity of community members working alongside organizational representatives, city departments, and other community-based organizations fulfilling the mandate set forth by City Council’s Food Equity Initiative.
In 2023, we welcomed a cohort of six Community Advocates. This program provides local leaders with the confidence in their advocacy skills and ensures that community voice and choice is always central to our work. Advocates gain advocacy skills, create connections within our community, survey local residents about the Power to Grow initiative, and collaboratewith the Food Justice Apprentices to create an inter-generational dialogue around food equity.
In Spring 2023, Cultivate Charlottesville added the next step in our stairway to leadership: the Food Justice Apprentice Cohort. This cohort is a paid opportunity for young adults who have experience in the Cultivate gardens and are looking to learn more about careers in food justice.
Food Justice Apprentices:
To learn about our individual apprentices, visit our staff page.
Food Justice Network believes in igniting genuine dialogue and convening our city around a core vision. We host a series of events such as round tables and conferences, deliver presentations on our research findings, and invite powerful food justice activist to inform our local movement.
Our FJN large group gatherings are open to everyone. In 2023 our meetings are focused on exploring each plank of the Food Equity Imitative Policy Platform to see how our work intersects. Meetings topics are:
To learn more sign up for our monthly newsletters HERE. To join the FJN google group contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Leah Leon is our beloved Garden Associate. As a Charlottesville native, Leah attended the city schools and found themselves in the Buford garden while attending middle school quite often. Leah became one of the first students to participate in the Garden Aid program the school had to offer and while at Buford, Leah developed a deeper appreciation for the environment and put their heart into maintaining the garden space while being a team player for their peers. Although they moved to the county during their high school career to attend Monticello High School, Leah has been loyal to the organization and became a youth intern for 2 (3?) years participating in various projects with other interns until officially taking the Garden Associate position. Although new to the title, they are very much familiar with how the organization works and excited to help support the organization and staff however they can. Leah is currently attending PVCC while taking an interest in biology and often likes to share a random fact or idea unprompted.
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Katrina Beitz joined Cultivate in 2022, returning to Charlottesville after a few years in Texas. Before entering the non-profit world, Katrina spent several years working on small-scale, sustainable farms as well as managing the educational farm at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton. She strives to combine her love of growing with her professional skills to support the local food justice movement.
Sarah Wayne is a lover of all things related to food. She was born and raised in Greensboro, NC and then moved to Burlington VT to study Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Vermont. During her time in Vermont, Sarah worked on various farms in the area to learn more about the local food community and farming practices. As a Youth Engagement & Garden Coordinator, she strives to nurture curiosity, build relationships, and foster a connection between children and nature through exploration, experiences, and play. Since moving to Charlottesville in 2016, Sarah has enjoyed biking, hiking, and canoeing through the many beautiful areas surrounding Charlottesville
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, Spanish and Dari (switched from Arabic in 2021). Check out our flyer archive!
UAC continues 16 years of grassroots work growing in public and subsidized housing neighborhoods, 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 (QCC) Farm Initiative, led by Karen Waters with support from Jenifer Minor and Tami Wright. The catalyst for the creation of the farm was to work in partnership with community residents at public and subsidized housing locations. The goal was to work 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 farm sites and produced over 17,000 pounds of food in a single year. Because of necessary housing redevelopment, UAC downsized in 2019 from approximately 1 acre of land to its current size of 22,000 sqft, or about half an acre. Our three farm sites can be found at the corner of 6th Street and Monticello Avenue, the corner of West Street and 9th Street, and behind CATEC, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center. We are working with planners and community members to find innovative solutions to grow food and meet food security needs in our community.
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.
Emma Brodeur arrived in Charlottesville as a UVA undergraduate student in 2010. Having taught and volunteered in Charlottesville City Schools, she embraces her position as Youth Engagement and Garden Coordinator. She strives to create inviting, immersive spaces that fuel curiosity for all students.
Amyrose Foll is the founder of Virginia Free Farm, Virginia Home Grown’s 2022 featured garden expert, a published author, and the former Director of Farmer Training for the Mid-Atlantic. She works to create community-driven food systems based on collectivism and a respect for nature. Amyrose‘s background in healthcare and her indigenous heritage (Penobscot/Abenaki) steer her approach to advocating for food sovereignty, security, and preservation of indigenous food culture.
Aleen Carey was born in Chicago, raised in Lancaster, PA, and moved to Charlottesville with her family while in high school. She then became a high school Spanish teacher and shared her love of the language and culture with hundreds of students over a decade. When she left the classroom, Aleen joined the CSG Board as a way to stay involved in education. After serving on the board for six years, she joined the staff in January 2020. Aleen caught the philanthropy bug while completing CNE’s Board Academy program and has spent the last 5 years honing her skills for relationship building, storytelling, and fundraising. Although she is not the most experienced gardener in this group, she is always eager and enthusiastic to learn about all things agriculture as well as the intersection of Charlottesville history and food access.
Selena Cozart, Ph.D., has over 20 years’ experience in facilitating dialogue and community engagement in the service of equity and justice. Selena is well-versed in the full range of skills and expertise required to affect community change through dialogue and action. We are grateful to have her support with coalition building, network coordination, building our capacity for racial equity, and strengthening organizational goals and values for the Food Justice Network and Cultivate Charlottesville as a whole. Some of her many other recent key experiences include: the Truth Commission Planning Group of Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties; Virginia Agricultural Leaders Obtaining Results; Transforming Community Spaces with IEN; Montpelier Descendants Community Memorialization Workshop; The Front Porch; and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation Project Management Team.
Jordan Johnson officially came on board as the Garden Team Manager and Health Advocate Coordinator in May 2017. He was born and raised in Rochester, NY and moved to Charlottesville in April 2017. Jordan has always been involved with planting and growing. Even on their tiny city lot growing up, his mother found a way to grow pumpkins, sunflowers, roses, and herbs. Jordan earned his masters degree in Public Administration from SUNY The College at Brockport, where the majority of his work focused on engaging the community and schools, emphasizing garden-based learning. Before leaving upstate New York, Jordan led a project to create a garden program at a day rehabilitation program for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Jenifer Minor joined the UACC team in 2015 as a Farm Apprentice. She helps run all aspects of the Food Production & Distribution program, from starting seeds to harvesting for market day. A resident of Friendship Court, Jenifer keeps a watchful eye on the gardens in her backyard and encourages her neighbors to get involved.
Richard Morris joined Cultivate Charlottesville in June of 2018 as Urban Agriculture Collective Program Director. In 2021 he also became our Farm & Foodroots Co-Executive Director. He grew up in the desert valley of Phoenix, Arizona and began an apprenticeship in the family garden sometime between learning to walk and ride a bike. He earned a degree in graphic design from Arizona State University and went on to become an instructor of design at the National Education Center. For over two decades, Richard has worked across the healthcare, education, aerospace, and financial industries as a graphic and software designer/developer and team manager. In that time, he has always maintained a garden of one sort or another. In 2005, he completed a Summer internship on the Flack Family Farm in Vermont. More recently, he comes to CSG from a ten-year stint at Polyface Farm. He has done volunteer work with local Charlottesville food equity organizations and is the author of “A Life Unburdened: Getting Over Weight and Getting On With My Life”. Currently, Richard lives on a few green acres with his family where he practices small-scale food production on a home foodstead.
You can read more about the intention behind the Co-Executive Director model here.
Shamera Banks was born and raised in Charlottesville where she has raised her four children. She has spent the last four years as a Nutrition Manager for Charlottesville City Schools. As Farm-to-School Coordinator she is working to connect schools and farms. Shamera is hard working and dedicated to serving and helping the community.
Quentia Taylor is a Charlottesville native and graduate of VCU. Before joining the Cultivate team in July 2022, she spent six years as a compliance associate at BIO-CAT. Quentia has been passionate about community work for many years and has volunteered with many different organizations to meets the needs of Charlottesville residents. When she is not working, Quentia loves to spend time with her family & friends, travel to see new places, and bond with her dog Lola.
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: 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.
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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
Jeanette Abi-Nader started as the Executive Director of City Schoolyard Garden in 2013 with the vision of transforming our work for social justice impact. In 2020 we became Cultivate Charlottesville and in 2021 launched a Co-Executive Director role with Jeanette focusing on Advocacy & Systems. Before Cultivate, she worked for a dozen years with the national food justice nonprofit, the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC). CFSC co-founded the National Farm to School Network and was instrumental in the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. As CFSC’s Evaluation and Training and Capacity Building Director, Jeanette authored publications on strategic evaluation design including Whole Measures for Community Food Systems, Community Food Project Indicators of Success, and Growing Communities Curriculum.
Jeanette is the former Board Treasurer for the American Community Gardening Association, Vice President of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Board, and a founding member of the Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative (GFJI). GFJI is a national network focused on dismantling racism in the food system.
Jeanette is an experienced farmer, having launched the first community supported agriculture project in the state of Louisiana and as Director of Farms for Frontier Natural Products Co-op. She has a Masters of Science in Sustainable Systems/Agroecology and is a certified permaculture designer and instructor.
Born and raised in Charlottesville, Yolonda Adams is a former student of the City School system. She is committed to empowering youth to thrive and excel. As a Youth Engagement and Garden Coordinator for Cultivate Charlottesville, Yolonda is always eager to work with students and teachers to encourage them to explore and embrace our garden spaces. She is attentive to providing optimal learning experiences for students while also engaging them in nature. Dually employed as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for the Thomas Jefferson Health District, she is adamant about connecting with families in the community. This synergy provides her with a solid foundation built around helping low-income families to develop a better understanding surrounding healthy food choices.
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.
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.