I was sitting in one of my nutrition classes recently when my professor started talking about a local farm that gives back to the community. I knew immediately that I wanted to get involved, and that is just what I've done. My past three weekends volunteering at Urban Roots have been incredible. I helped plant seeds for cilantro, turnips, carrots, arugula, and parsley, harvested kale (my favorite), and pulled a lot of weeds! Not only did I love spending time out in the great outdoors learning about farming, but I was also blown away by what the people at Urban Roots have accomplished.
Urban Roots was founded ten years ago with only 1 acre of land and 15 youth leaders. Because of their success, the farm has expanded to the 3.5 acres that is their current home. Since their founding, Urban Roots has produced 288,601 pounds of produce!! That is incredible!! Their yearly harvest falls anywhere between 25,000 and 40,000 pounds, again, on only only 3.5 acres of land!! Urban Roots also uses sustainable, ecologically friendly practices when growing their crops, and any produce that is not harvested for consumption is recycled as compost.
Every year Urban Roots donates 40% of their harvest to a variety of hunger relief organizations around the Austin area. These organizations include the Central Texas Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, AIDS Services of Austin, Street Youth Ministry in Austin, and so many more. Over the last ten years, Urban Roots has donated 117,784 pounds (235,000 servings) of fresh produce to these organizations (13,942 pounds was donated just last year)! As a future dietician, I can not tell you how happy it makes me to hear this. A lot of the food normally offered in these facilities are highly processed, packaged foods, so I was overjoyed to learn that Urban Roots is trying to make a difference in this area by providing high quality produce to these hunger relief organizations!
Urban Roots provides three different paid internships for anyone between the ages of 14 and 23. The purpose of these internships is to help empower teens and young adults and teach them how to be successful leaders through the use of farming. During it's ten years, Urban Roots has had 288 youth graduate from these internships! I had the pleasure of meeting some of these interns and was completely blown away by the level of knowledge that these young people had thanks to Urban Roots, and their passion for what they do was inspiring. To say that Urban Roots is doing a great job at preparing young people to be future leaders would be quite an understatement!
I had no idea what to expect when I showed up at Urban Roots for my first volunteer shift, but I walked away with a tremendous amount of respect for what these people do. I loved every minute of it - from the opening game that teaches volunteers some interesting (and shocking) facts about the US food system, to the celebrations after each task is completed, everything about this farm is centered around joy and building a loving, supportive community.
I highly encourage all of you to support Urban Roots in any way you can, whether that be by making a donation, volunteering to help out at the farm, or even just by spreading the word. We could use a whole lot more organizations like this!
For more information about Urban Roots visit www.urbanrootsatx.org