We’re approaching the end of Week 2 of the SOOP program, and SMSJ’s been through some big changes. Our EDEN gardens are growing, and we’re not just talking about the vegetables! This week, I sat down with Julian, a 16-year old drama major at School of the Arts, and Randy, a 17-year-old UPrep student, to hear about what they’ve been up to this week.
On Monday afternoon, our SOOP interns installed 11 new raised beds at SMSJ’s newest garden, located at 1199 Culver Road. Braving the extreme heat and a few minutes of heavy rain (surprise!), the interns spent the afternoon drilling boards together, laying down cardboard, and filling up the new beds with a mixture of soil and compost that will nourish the crops they plant. Randy told me that his work in the garden has been “a good learning experience,” and that he’s been really impressed by “how a garden can make a whole community come together.” Julian agreed, adding, “the value of the whole neighborhood goes up because of the effort people put into the garden.”
Our new beds at the 1199 garden will enhance our ability to grow food for our Beechwood neighbors, and by next growing season, they have the potential to add hundreds of pounds to our overall yields! If you’d like to see the results of interns’ hard work for yourself and be part of the first stages of growth at our new garden, we invite you to join our community for work sessions at 10:00 am on Mondays. No gardening experience necessary—just come ready to have fun and get your hands dirty!
Our interns haven’t just been working in the garden this week. They’ve been able to take not one, but two field trips to different organizations in our community. These trips have allowed the interns to expand their view beyond SMSJ’s gardens and learn more about how food justice is being served in Rochester.
On Tuesday, the interns took a trip to Foodlink, where they assisted with a number of building maintenance projects. Both Randy and Julian had positive things to say about their service experience: Randy says he enjoys helping in the community because “you get t learn about people and how they would go about things,” and Julian says that he gets “this positive feeling about the community” whenever he’s involved in a community service project.
The interns’ exploration of the community didn’t stop there! On Thursday, the interns received a tour of Taproot Collective’s First Market Farm, located right next door to the Public Market at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and First Street. Julian and Randy pointed out a lot of differences between the First Market Farm and the EDEN gardens: they grow some different crops, they use materials differently, and they collect and repurpose rainwater. However, they also noticed a lot of similarities: some of the crops we grow are the same, and we both use mulch and compost.
Randy and Julian have learned a lot about gardening in Rochester over the past two weeks. Randy reported that just like SMSJ, Taproot Collective is “trying to encourage the neighborhood to own the garden and get them more involved.” Julian has learned that “the city isn’t a good environment for garden building because they sell properties from under the noses of gardeners.” Urban farmers across Rochester have similar goals and similar challenges, and we’re glad that the interns were able to be exposed to the way another organization runs their farm. Thanks to Taproot Collective for showing the interns around!
Our interns have been building relationships with our neighbors, various community organizations, and perhaps most importantly, each other. Our interns come from all over the city, and they each have a unique perspective to contribute to the group. As Julian put it, “you’re constantly reformatting your perspective based on other people’s different perspectives. That’s the best part of this internship: the coworkers.”
Stay tuned for more news from the SOOP interns—we can’t wait to show you what they do next!