For our monthly blog posts, we have invited our staff to share stories about their work in their own voices. This month, we begin with Esha, our Youth Programs Manager, and the youth programming she has been running with Ypsilanti’s local youth.

Hello! I’m Esha Biswas, Growing Hope’s Youth Programs Manager, here to share a little peek into our youth programming with you. Fall is field trip season on our urban farm when we welcome groups of all ages to experience garden-based learning through our interactive lessons. Students in Ypsilanti Community Schools participate for free on these trips, while groups from outside of Ypsi pay a fee. Every trip features an interactive tour, a hands-on gardening task, and a cooking lesson using fresh ingredients from our farm.

Recently, I had the pleasure of leading a field trip for attendees from Corner Health, a local health clinic serving youth from ages 12-25. This field trip ended up being with not just one of the attendees of Corner Health’s summer program, but her and four of her siblings of various ages (the youngest of whom was 3)! This mixed-age experience was the perfect reminder of why I love working and learning alongside kids of all ages on the farm. I love seeing eyes light up with recognition when kids smell thyme from our herb garden and think of pizza. I love watching curious faces taste a borage flower for the first time and wonder aloud how it could taste so much like a cucumber. Most of all, I love seeing kids realize and relish the abundance that our Earth offers when we listen and take care of her. On this beautiful, late summer day, we tasted freshly ripened cherry tomatoes together, looked for hard-working critters in our compost pile, and harvested all the needed ingredients before making fresh salsa together. Every child was able to help out by chopping, peeling, prepping, and mixing, and by the end, we were all smiles upon loading up tortilla chips with our farm-fresh creation. The two oldest siblings were delighted to take home extra ingredients and I heard them exclaim while running to their guardian’s car, “we can make more salsa at home!

Garden-based learning is such a salient and urgently essential way for our youth to connect to the land. I feel honored to be able to witness these moments of magic on our farm, and am excited for all the field trips I’ll be leading this school year with youth.