Cultivate Charlottesville Newsletters
Another academic year has come to an end, but it’s just the beginning of a busy summer for Cultivate. With the newest youth food justices interns cooking up veggies straight from the garden, many different groups volunteering in the school gardens and farm plots, and Community Market Days in full swing—June is anything but a vacation!
We’ve been busy at Cultivate this spring! At the end of April we practiced Healing in the Garden with The Women’s Initiative, watched the Building Trades students complete raised beds at the CATEC farm plot, installed the Charlottesville Twelve sundial at Clark Elementary, hosted a BINGO fundraiser, and celebrated the volunteers, partners, & sponsors that support our work. That was all in one week.
March came in like a lamb with sunny skies heralding spring weather, but it went out like a lion with a tornado warning and wild winds. That’s not the only weather folklore The Farmers’ Almanac highlights related to the third month of the year. “So many mists in March you see, so many frosts in May will be” and “As it rains in March, so it rains in June,” will have us waiting for another few months to find out how the weather affects our 2022 harvests.
Cultivate is over-the-moon thrilled to be a new CORE MEMBER of HEAL Food Alliance! City Schoolyard Garden, Food Justice Network, and Urban Agriculture Collective came together to form Cultivate Charlottesville with a mission of integrating the approach each of those programs had to building a healthy and just food system. HEAL Food Alliance shares that vision saying, “No single individual, organization, or sector can transform systems in isolation. We believe that true transformation requires diverse skills, roles, and resources— and, it requires organizing together for real change.” Cultivate is proud to be one of the HEAL member organizations “building collective power to transform our food and farm systems.”
It’s a new year! We’re certainly excited to welcome new Cultivate team member Shamera Banks as Farm to School Coordinator with our City Schoolyard Garden program. We’re also pretty fired up about two urban farm spaces that will see us planting and harvesting again in 2022. This will be our first full season at Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC), where we have already laid roots of collaboration with the students and faculty. In addition, we will be working the land again on West Street (behind the Region Ten building) that has been stewarded by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) New Roots farmers for the last number of years.
If you’re anything like me, you start thinking of sweet potato pie the moment your Halloween costume comes off each year! Well, our coworkers on the UAC team and our new friends at CATEC have got us beat this year—they didn’t wait for Thanksgiving to break out the goodies. UAC planted these humongous “sweet taters” as Farmer Rich calls them, long ago in anticipation of Community Market Days. Community members who live in any public or subsidized housing neighborhood in the city can find the UAC team at the weekly location (rotating between Friendship Court, Midway Manor, Crescent Halls, Westhaven, South 1st Street, and CATEC) with pounds of fresh produce. Neighbors can pick out the produce they need for the week ahead at no cost. So, many of our neighbors have already the extreme pleasure of tasting these taters.
The Cultivate Charlottesville Board is excited about the new Co-Executive Director leadership structure that was implemented this spring. As we continue to move forward with our organizational mission and what we aspire to per our Uprooting Racism Action Plan (developed after staff and board training from SoulFire Farm) the tenets of Decision-Making, Power and Authority were highlighted, and actionable steps were taken to remain true to this mission.
Happy autumn food justice friends!
Please mark your attendance for the bi-monthly Cultivate Charlottesville Food Justice Network large group meeting! Our next gathering is being moved to October 20 from 10:30am-12:30pm on Zoom. We will be preparing for our Food Equity Initiative presentation to City Council coming up November 1st and are excited for your to engage and advocate!
School is back! Whether you are a student, parent, teacher, or neighbor. If you’re associated with Charlottesville City Schools, UVA, any of the private schools, or Albemarle County Schools. SCHOOL IS BACK! While we are excited for the return of in-person learning, we also acknowledge that the ferocity of COVID-19 is back as well. And we are wishing all school folks a safe and healthy beginning of the new academic year!
Cultivate will mirror the COVID-19 policy adopted by local education institutions and supported by the Blue Ridge Health District regarding vaccinations, testing, masks, and social distancing. We love working alongside so many of you and are committed to healthy and safe interactions with students, volunteers, colleagues, and community members.
It’s been hot. Extremely hot. The CSG garden coordinators & food justice interns have experienced it the school gardens, and the UAC farm team has felt it at 6th Street and the new CATEC location. FJN advocates & residents who live in public and subsidized housing know all too well that the heat of summer, which is increasing at an alarming rate due to climate change, brings with it the dangerous heat island effect.
As much as our team plans to take advantage of the cooler temperatures of early morning and late evening for garden work, people who live in neighborhoods without green space and tree canopy are not able to escape increased energy consumption, elevated emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, compromised human health & comfort, and impaired water quality.
Is anyone else feeling busy? Are we *checks notes* already approaching the half-way point of 2021? After two months of non-stop action, we’re catching our breath and catching you up on what we’ve been doing.
April and May were marked by many Cultivate events. We spread our thanks to our volunteers and partners at the virtual ROOT! celebration, spread information about the ways we work with the City to build a healthy and just food system at our ZOOM roundtable, and spread plants across the town through another successful annual seedling giveaway and sale. Catch up with us here!
Leading up to our launch as Cultivate Charlottesville almost a year ago, we picked the words GROW | SHARE | ADVOCATE as shorthand for our mission work toward a healthy and just food system in our city. On the surface, the word “share” represents our urban agriculture work of sharing food grown in and for community. But we also recognize the integrated work of each of our programs—City Schoolyard Garden, Urban Agriculture Collective, and Food Justice Network—for a common goal, and sharing can be seen as central to all of our work. Read more here!
In January & February Food Justice Network advocates, youth food justice interns, parents and nonprofit leaders showed up to express their support for the Food Equity Initiative Policy Platform. Congratulations! We heard emphasis on: Food as a human right, a desire for fresher school meals, a challenge to center food equity in school nutrition departments and take away the burden of functioning like a business, support for the intersection of food equity and affordable housing, an interest in a cooperative grocery owned by community members of color and more!
At this month’s large group Food Justice Network meeting we will be digging into each of the policy platform areas and exploring ways to build power and energy around action. Join us! Read more here
Working together to cultivate a healthy and just food system requires complex, integrated efforts and partners with multiple forms of activism. During the Uprooting Racism training with SoulFire Farm this past fall, Leah Penniman shared their butterfly model that articulates four powerful strategies for transformation: Resist, Build, Heal, Reform. Each strategy has played a part in the long history of action toward liberation. At Cultivate, we also aim to engage across strategies in our programs, initiatives, values, and action. Is it possible, however, to Resist an institution with whom you are partnering to Reform? To take time to Heal the harm of racism while working diligently to Build new systems? Read more about our commitment to Uprooting Racism.
This new year feels a lot like last year. There are some themes we would have liked to leave behind in 2020—the coronavirus pandemic, policing of Black people, and political turmoil. Food insecurity in our city is also an issue we wish could have ended last year, but we are reenergized to continue to GROW, SHARE, and ADVOCATE for a healthy and just food system for all.
January brings the opportunity to advocate for increased funding of #healthyschoolmeals. The food justice interns, community advocates, and Cultivate staff presented their and requests during the School Board/City Council joint budget meeting about the importance of infrastructure changes. With additional monies allocated toward school meals, schools can upgrade resources, continue to professionalize positions within the Nutrition Department, and provide healthy meals for all students. Read on!
As we say goodbye to 2020, we also say thank you to all of the people who have worked together to build food justice over the past twelve months. While our focus on a healthy and just food system in Charlottesville remains steady, the initiatives and community engagement pivoted to address immediate needs around food security during the COVID-19 crisis. The coronavirus pandemic shifted our course, but we were still able to take a huge step on the journey to more fully integrate our core programs—City Schoolyard Garden, Urban Agriculture Collective, and Food Justice Network—when Cultivate Charlottesville officially launched in the spring. That was our first foray into the world of Instagram Live and ZOOM webinar, and we all adapted to these new ways to engage together and work for equity. Looking toward the new year, we will continue to host students in the gardens in a safe manner, work to find and develop new land for urban agriculture, and collaborate with organizations and City departments to address the inequities in our current food system.We wish you and your loved ones a joyous turn to the new year and continued health and community!
One of the first things we learn when studying the environment is that healthy ecosystems are rich in biodiversity, the amount of variety of life on Earth. Biodiversity is the number of different species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that are thriving in an ecosystem. (NASA, Exploring the Environment, Global Climate Change) But, it is more than simply the number of species in an ecosystem that make it healthier and more resilient—what enhances ongoing, vibrancy, and resilience in an ecosystem are the connections and relationships between the species. This also rings true with our organizational and community efforts for change. Food Justice Network’s partnership with City Council for the Food Equity Initiative was built on the idea that we are more effective when we work together with multiple strategies, a diversity of partners, and intersecting issues. Read on!
October isn’t in the middle of the calendar year, but it feels as though we’re right in between things. It’s not the end of the summer/beginning of the school year anymore, and yet it’s not quite the holiday season either. Even though we still have one month until Thanksgiving and two until the December holidays, October offers much to celebrate. From Indigenous Peoples’ Day to Farm-to-School Week to the Urban Agriculture Collective Garden Gathering, the Cultivate community has been hard at work sharing history; honoring the stewards of our land; strengthening the bond between fresh, local produce and our school meals; and thanking everyone who has made our Community Market Days successful in the middle of a pandemic.
Fall might be the best season (the mosquitos have been doing their best to keep summer out of the number one spot) to experience this place. In Charlottesville and the surrounding counties, we are in the unique position to live in this sweet spot at the base of the mountains. From hikes and camping to farms and orchards to rivers and trees, this land provides endless opportunities to bask in the abundance all around us. Come autumn, when the leaves display their most diverse and fiery hues, we’ve delighted in those neon green buds and first warm breezes of spring and wiped the sweat away as we’ve harvested and enjoy the summer bounty. Now fall bestows cooler days upon us that will take us into possible snowfall and definite bowls of piping hot soup. This is quite a place to live. Even though some of us were born and raised in these foothills, we are not the first to cultivate and benefit from this land; the people of the Monacan Nation hiked these woods, drank from these rivers, cultivated these fields, and basked in this bounty long before us. Their descendants (a mere 2,000 currently call Virginia home) have endured hundreds of years of colonialist and racist practices to survive and live here today. Please read our entire Indigenous Acknowledgement by reading this month’s newsletter and join us in sharing the stories and voices of the original stewards of this land.
Not Goodbye – Just see you later. As August comes to an end, two core initiatives investing in youth leadership and community health are moving into the next phase of work. The Food Justice Interns under the tutelage of Miss Shannon and a team of Cultivate staff members have completed their summer session and are—along with their classmates all over the city—preparing for the virtual beginning of the school year. This year, the Youth Intern team will continue a robust schedule during the academic year. Food Justice Network’s collaboration with Frontline Foods and multiple partners to organize a distribution initiative that helped businesses owned by people of color to survive while providing meals to folks who needed emergency food access is shifting gears as well. At the same time, the summer show still goes on! Gardens at the schools and in the community are being tended while connections with everyone from the City Schools to the University to our two major health systems to local donors are still being cultivated each and every day.
On the Rise. It’s hot out here. And the show goes on. Miss Mackenzie and Mr. Davis share stories from school gardens that will make you want to eat a Mexican sour gherkin (that’s a real thing) and stop to smell the flowers. In collaboration with many other organizations, Food Justice Network continues to provide emergency food access and COVID-19 to support to those who test positive in our community. At the same time, FJN leaders remind us of the importance of advocacy in times of crisis as well as when things seem to be less urgent. Urban Agriculture Collective had a trial volunteer day this month, which went well and opened the door for more socially distanced gardening opportunities. Yolonda Adams and Sarah Wayne were guests on To Your Health on 97.9’s radio show—be sure to take a listen. Cville Weekly’s Serving Up Relief is going strong, and you still have plenty of time to bid on awesome prizes. The Cultivate Social Justice Book Club shares some of the titles that have been the topic of great discussion as spring turned into summer. Lifeview Marketing created a wonderful video to help spread the word about the Cultivate Charlottesville mission, be sure to share it with your friends. As always, catch a glimpse of the fruits of our labor (as well as the CHS cat Spike).
Food Justice Network. Advocate for Black & Brown Lives In Our Food System During COVID-19. In this issue of the Food Justice Network newsletter, the Network asks that you join in taking action against Tyson Foods. Read more about our demands and why it is so important that we stand in solidarity with food service workers across the nation. Also in this issue, updates on our text messaging service, a Member Spotlight and information about our July 22nd Large Group Meeting.
A Moment in a Movement. June was a month marked by continued outrage and protest around the killings of Black people in America. Read our statement regarding Black lives. Much has happened in our offices in the last month including Elza Thomas joining our FJN staff—find out her favorite food and why she’s excited to work at Cultivate. We’re over-the-moon excited that the Summer Food Justice Interns have started! Revolutionary food and music recommendations abound just like the fresh produce from our UAC gardens—check out what’s good. Everyone has been hard at work to support the wraparound COVID-19 resources being provided by FJN and many other organizations in the community. If you don’t take a peek at this newsletter, you’ll miss a couple of our youngest gardeners—the sons of one of our board and one of our staff members. Be sure to read Community Climate Collaborative’s interview of Cultivate ED Jeanette Abi-Nader. Cville Weekly and a group of generous donors are coming together to host Serving Up Relief, a fundraiser that will benefit the Food Equity Fund.
We’re official!!! Even though COVID-19 has thrown a couple of obstacles in the way, Cultivate Charlottesville has launched! Find out more about what it means to have City Schoolyard Garden, Urban Agriculture Collective, and Food Justice Network integrated working to build a healthy and just food system. Buford Middle School students work to plant and grow almost 10,000 seedlings each year. With a little help from staff, we were able to finish what the students started and donate and sell plants to hundreds of community members. UAC Market Days begin in June, and staffers are adapting the model to ensure people still have weekly access to fresh produce through the summer and into the fall. COVID-19, and the ensuing quarantine, has made food accessibility more difficult for many people who were already battling this issue. FJN has led the efforts through collaboration with the City and many partners to provide emergency food efforts. Each year we take time to thank and recognize our volunteers and partners. This year, we hosted our annual ROOT! celebration via ZOOM and were joined by so many of our favorite people. Cultivate partnered with Charlottesville Tomorrow to publish op-eds written by two of our staff members and articles featuring our colleagues written by Cville Tomorrow journalists. Find those articles and more on our PRESS PAGE.
Three Programs Come Together as One. City Schoolyard Garden connects youth to where their food is grown, provides experiential learning, and invests in youth leaders. Urban Agriculture Collective continues a long standing effort to build bridges across differences through growing on public land and sharing at Community Market Days. Food Justice Network advocates for food equity. Together we are CULTIVATE CHARLOTTESVILLE, an integrated approach to to building a healthy and just food system personally, in community, and across systems and structures.
Schools have been closed for the remainder of the year, but the CSG team has been working hard to fill in gaps and continue programming as we can. In the March Newsletter you will see the changes that have come to the CHS garden this semester as well as what is on the schedule for UAC now with only one garden site. You get to meet three more additions to the CSG team and hear a message from Jeanette Abi-Nader on how we are responding to all the changes in our community.
In our February Newsletter we get to hear from our Burnley Moran Garden Coordinator on what there is to see in the garden and we check in at Clark Elementary to see “whats cookin” over there. We also take some time to introduce 3 new faces to the City Schoolyard Garden team!
With the end of another great year, we are thrilled to share 2019 Stories We Love. From the compost program in the CCS Cafeterias, to the Local Food Local Places tour this summer, we shared 12 of our best 2019 stories in case you missed them the first time.