Have you ever experienced a moment where you stop, look at your life and realize that it’s wildly different than you could have ever imagined? Maybe you live in a state you never thought you’d live in, or you’re working a job that wasn’t on your radar. I recently had one of those moments. As I chose my college major and made the decision to move across the country, I had to stop and wonder, “How did I get here?” The answer is simple: Urban Roots.
On my first day at the Urban Roots farm in the spring of 2018, after the smiling team greeted me and my fellow interns — and after we recovered from being overwhelmed by the vivid colors of fresh produce that surrounded us — the farm manager, Lea, led us on a tour of the farm. At one point as we walked through the fields, she asked the group if we were interested in a snack. In unison, we said, “Yes!” It had been a long day, and we were starving. Without hesitation, Lea reached down into a patch of weeds and offered them to us as if they were candy. We were speechless. A handful of weeds was not the afternoon snack we were looking for, and we declined her offer. But if you asked any of the Urban Roots youth interns now … well, you wouldn’t have to ask. We’d already be eating them.
Fast forward to that summer, when I immersed myself in farm culture, agriculture and food justice initiatives. Urban Roots introduced me to the idea of living an environmentally conscious lifestyle, and the more time I spent at Urban Roots, the more I became frustrated with the food habits I was seeing off the farm. At Urban Roots we were focused on sustainable agriculture and equitable access to healthy, affordable foods. Meanwhile, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a fast food restaurant in many cities and towns across Texas and the United States.
During an Urban Roots community lunch on our farm, I shared these frustrations along with a vision to improve access to healthy food in my hometown: a community garden at my high school in Kyle. The idea behind the community garden is to pass on the knowledge I learned at Urban Roots to my fellow high school students with the hope of changing my city. After my speech, a woman from the audience approached me, wanting to know more about my community garden idea. After we spoke, she offered to make a donation toward the project. This was a powerful moment for me because it showed me that my idea was worth pursuing and my community was worth helping.
It’s now been over six months since I broke ground on my school garden. With the help of my teachers and fellow students, I was able to build garden beds, buy soil and plant vegetables. I also created an organization on campus called the Lehman Soil Society. We meet every week, work in the gardens and give fresh produce to other organizations. None of this would have been possible without the generosity and knowledge of my Urban Roots family.
At first, I believed that my involvement with Urban Roots was just a pitstop on my journey but now I see Urban Roots is the beginning of my path in life. I’m meant to move forward and continue to give back to my community through food and service.
Learn more about Urban Roots at urbanrootsatx.org
By Qwynci Bowman, Urban Roots Youth Fellow • Photography by Kasey Williams