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Young urban farmers look to take skills to the next level

Lavarae Marshall and Christopher Jackson

Young urban farmers look to take skills to the next level
August 03
05:00 2017

When Christopher Jeffords, an alumnus and Spanish teacher at Carver High School, heard about the Youth Urban Gardening program supported by United Way Place Matter initiative and the Forsyth County Cooperative Extension, he knew the program would be perfect for his alma mater.

“I was running around asking everyone about the program and how we could bring it here,” smiled Jeffords. “That’s when I got in contact with Julie and she has been helping us ever since.”

Julie Hale serves as the youth and community gardens coordinator for the Forsyth County Cooperative Extension, an outreach arm of the College of Agriculture and Life Science at N.C. State University and the School of Agriculture at N.C. A&T State University. Under the watchful eye of Jeffords, Hale and several community volunteers, in just a few months students from Carver have turned barren land into a top-notch garden complete with everything from cherry tomatoes to fresh basil. Since early spring students have worked two days per week after school and “part-days” on Saturdays to maintain the garden located behind the school on Carver School Road, and the Carl H. Russell Community Center.

According to Hale, during the paid internship students learned to grow and market fresh produce, how to cook healthy meals, and participate in workshops that develop life skills.

While the Youth Urban Gardening Internship is still new, it has already caught on with several students, including rising college freshmen Christopher Jackson and Lavarae Marshall. Jackson, who will attend Forsyth Technical Community College in the fall and major in agriculture and engineering, said he has always loved farming, so when Mr. Jeffords approach him with the chance to get paid for it, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve always loved farming and agriculture so this was just perfect,” Jackson said.

Marshall, who will be attending the University of Kentucky and plans to major in biology, got an early start in gardening as well, starting while he was a student at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy before transferring to Carver. He said along with learning new tips for growing vegetables, the internship has also taught him to be a more patient person, not to mention knowing how to create your own food could always come in handy. 

“This is a skill that will never diminish. If anything goes wrong, you will know how to produce your own food and you’ll be self-sufficient,’ Marshall said.

Although their internship will end in a few weeks, both Jackson and Marshall plan to continue gardening in the future. During an interview with The Chronicle last week while looking over their crops, both expert gardeners said they plan to start a garden club on their college campuses when they arrive. 

“I did the research. The University of Kentucky doesn’t even have a garden club, so I plan to be the first to start that,” said Marshall. “They have community gardens but nothing like this, so I hope to start something new there.”

Jackson said, “I want to at least start a community garden at Forsyth Tech to teach other students about agriculture and living off the land.

“I want it to be there to make a difference in people lives and on campus,” he said.

After seeing the impact the garden internship has had on his students, Jeffords is already pushing for a course to be added to the regular curriculum. He mentioned not all learning has to be done in the classroom.

“This is exactly what I imagined when we brought this program to Carver,” he said. “Now that we have had success and students are talking about the program, now I’m pushing even more students to get involved. This is only the beginning.”

The Youth Urban Farming Internship is sponsored by the United Way of Forsyth County’s Place Matters initiative, a resident-led initiative designed to target investments where they’re needed most. In 2016, the United Way invested $2.8 million in 22 various neighborhood programs.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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