March 13, 2019

This Bay Area urban farm teaches kids to grow, harvest, and sell fruits and vegetables

Meet the finalists for the 2019 Renewal Awards, a program of The Atlantic and Allstate. Five winners will receive a $20,000 prize from Allstate.

Acta Non Verba teaches young people the fundamentals of growing and harvesting food. They also learn about business and investing, as the kids then sell the produce they grow and get to deposit the earnings into savings accounts. Photo courtesy of the Oakland, California, nonprofit

Editor’s note: Meet the finalists for 2019 The Renewal Awards. The annual program that honors nonprofits that are creatively solving problems in their communities is a project of The Atlantic and Allstate. This year, five winners each will receive a $20,000 prize from Allstate. Winners will be announced April 3 at The Renewal Summit in New York City. You can watch a live stream of the event, which begins at 9:30 a.m. EDT, on our Facebook page.

Acta Non Verba founder Kelly Carlisle likes to say, “There’s a time for talking, and there’s a time for doing.”

The East Oakland, California nonprofit she founded is a testament to that philosophy, in name (Latin for “deeds, not words”) and in practice.

Acta Non Verba invests in young people in Carlisle’s hometown through urban farming. Kids learn about growing and harvesting produce and healthy cooking. Participants, most of whom are African American and Latino, also get to sell their produce and 100 percent of the dollars they earn go into educational savings accounts for them, so the kids have the opportunity to invest in themselves as well.

[ Read: Meet the finalists for the 2019 Renewal Awards ]

“We empower our kids to be educated, well-rounded stewards in our community by facilitating a safe space for nature-based experiences,” Program Coordinator Ayano Jeffers-Fabro told us via email. The Bay Area nonprofit also hosts camps, after-school programs, and monthly community farm days.

As of 2017, more than 95 percent of Acta Non Verba youth qualified for free or reduced lunches, Jeffers-Fabro told us. The East Oakland neighborhood is a densely populated urban area that suffers from pollution, urban blight, and high crime rates, according to the organization’s website.

“Our youth have often not experienced the social and emotional benefits of being outdoors and we hope to foster a new love, via new experiences, in the great outdoors,” said Jeffers-Fabro.

The organization serves over 375 youth the ages of 5-14 annually. The older kids also have an opportunity to mentor younger participants through Acta Non Verba’s Leaders in Training program.

Jeffers-Fabro likens farming to parenthood. “Farmers tends to their crops, helping them to grow into a fruitful plant,” she said. “Likewise, parents tend to their children, supporting their growth, helping them to bloom into strong, independent, knowledgeable individuals.”

Follow Acta Non Verba on Twitter @anv_youth_farm. Donate to the nonprofit here.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.
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