Touring Wayne Foods Initiative–Nov 3rd

We don’t have a lot of physical sites to “tour”: the library garden is a beautiful design, the kids’ farm at Dillard Academy is mindblowing, the farmers market on Wednesdays makes me smile inside out, and we may have a new growing site soon, but that is about it on the physical space side.

That said, we did a tour for the national Politics of Food conference in Sept, and we’re going to host a few visiting and city official folks on a similar tour again on Nov 3rd to talk about what we do, and what WE CAN do. If you’d like to join us, contact Shorlette Ammons-Stephens by calling the Wayne Public Library and asking for her at the Children’s Desk. Monday, noon-2.

As Shorlette at the Library is organizing that and busy busy doing so, made me recall that I’d only posted half the blurb that Andrea Gram kindly sent us of her perspective of the tour. Here is her whole blurb on the WFI tour and a link to her whole conference review is on the PoF post.

“Later that afternoon we were handed our lunches and loaded up on buses for selected field trips; I chose the Wayne County Community Foods System Initiative. Our first stop was a gorgeous community garden that was designed, planted, and is maintained by the public library including local citizens and youth from their various programs there. Here we met some pretty incredible women including Shorlette Stephens, the warm and inviting Head of Children’s Services there at the library who casually described a very gracious philosophy of trusting folks to take what they need, in which she revealed a precious and rare faith in humanity. We also met Danielle Baptiste, coordinator at Dillard Academy, who spoke to us about the CASTLES down to earth gardening curriculum and the improvements made by the youth involved in the program. Ms. Baptiste then introduced Ms. Cheryl Alston, a school teacher who decided she was up to the SOL challenge and its restrictive guidelines and so created a remedial educational program using sustainable gardening studies at the elementary school in Wayne County. Ms. Baptiste proudly reported that over 90% of the students who participated in the program, students who had below average grades, had exceeded their grade level by the following year as a result of her down to earth teaching strategies – wow, what an accomplishment! Finally Tes Thraves, a consultant from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, touched on some of her true and tested organizing methods stressing the importance of taking stock of existing community assets in an effort to start building from the ground up, an approach that appears to be a wildly successful and one that I won’t soon forget.

“After hearing about these interconnected environmental disciplines, we departed for the elementary school in Wayne County where we were greeted by a host of teachers, aids, and community members who had gathered together to commemorate the achievements of the children involved in the gardening project. What came next nearly brought everyone in the room to tears: the children gathered around their music teacher and keyboardist to present two very creative and powerful music ensembles that they had created – not to tote the values of a MTV music culture but to celebrate the joys of fresh vegetables and healthy eating habits! It was the most heart-warming experience I’d had in a long time, all the while munching on the delicious pear preserves and biscuits they had prepared especially for us. The moments of vulnerability, hope, and pride that flickered across their faces as these children strutted their stuff before our teary-eyed audience was a powerfully moving experience. In fact, it left my cheeks sore from permagrin and the incalculable joy of it all. Now that was some real Southern hospitality!”

by Andrea Gram


Check out what Andrea is up to at GreenRight ! Yo CASTLES kids–did you see you are someone else’s site, not just ours!! 🙂 Amazing stuff Andrea is doing and I have to say that being on the bus going and coming from Wayne that day was such a pleasure and an honor–I love the endless faith that people working in food have for each other and the world. As Ms Cheryl is busy trying to get water at a site that’s been donated, and we make collective decisions about plans we have made and realities that tweak those, and as we develop working groups to start our emerging leaders project with Heifer funding, as Shorlette begins the plans for the community reads project, as Carol is finalizing the SARE funding for our farmers to go to Southern SAWG conference in Jan and Carolyn makes plans to go to CFSA with Travis this weekend, I’m awed and inspired that daily life brings new possibilities. It is good to step back and take a tour now and then of the big picture. And then get back to diggin in the little piece of dirt right in front of you.


Someone else is going to blog soon, right Shorlette?

so thanks . . . tes


About tessa eliza thraves

a local food and sustainable energy freak, working for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems on community and youth Food System projects across the state.

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