Tag Archives: urban garden

Notes from the Farm: Summer Camp Feeds Hungry Young Minds

By Josh Corlew, Hands On Nashville Urban Agriculture Program Manager

Sunflowers last summer were beautiful – about to flower again!

For the past few weeks, the Urban Farm has been thriving with activity. The mild spring weather and mix of sun and rain has made the fields so happy — the garlic is ready to harvest, the tomatoes and peppers are beginning to set fruit, and the sunflowers should be opening their heads in just a few weeks. With our second full growing (and teaching!) season underway, we can’t believe how much has been accomplished in the last year thanks to the community’s support!

Along with all of the anticipation around growth and renewal on the Farm comes the excitement of our second year of Hands On Nashville’s summer youth development program called Crop City. This farm-to-table, curriculum-based camp engages 400 young people in fun learning activities around healthy eating, nutrition, and connecting them to where food comes from — the ground! Most of the participating children are from neighborhoods with limited access to fresh produce. Through Crop City, the youth get a chance to learn from one another, play a role in growing the vegetables at the Farm, and learn about making healthy food choices. During the final week of the program, chefs from local Nashville restaurants will visit the youth on the Farm and show them how to prepare simple recipes using the healthy produce they’ve helped to grow. (Special thanks to Chef Tony Galzin of Flyte World Dining and Wine, and Caroline Galzin of Rumours Wine Bar, for their support in this effort!)

Crop City participants playing an ice breaker game, Giants, Wizards, and Dragons!
Crop City campers this week playing an ice breaker game – Giants, Wizards, and Dragons!

We were inspired by the results of last summer’s program at the Urban Farm: participants were able to recognize more vegetables than they had at the start of the program, and more than 75% said they were trying to make healthier food choices as a result of their experience. We are working toward even bigger and better outcomes in 2013, and can’t wait to share them with you!

Hands On Nashville Urban Farm Apprentices during their training last week doing a team-building exercise.
Hands On Nashville Urban Farm Apprentices during their training last week doing a team-building exercise.


One of the coolest aspects of Crop City is that the curriculum is lead by the Hands On Nashville Urban Farm Apprentices. Selected through a competitive application and interview process, these amazing teenagers are leading all of the Crop City activities under our guidance. We’ll be introducing the 15 Apprentices via this blog soon, so stay tuned! (They are one incredibly talented group of high school students.)

Last summer, Chef Tony Galzin (Flyte World Dining & Wine) demonstrated how to make a tasty, healthy salad using the veggies the campers helped grow. We are excited to have Chef Galzin back again this year for the cooking workshop in July!

The community continues to be very supportive of our efforts at the Farm. We have enjoyed working with several corporate volunteer groups over the past few weeks on infrastructure improvement projects at the Farm. Special thanks to Starbucks, Ford, Cummins, and Deloitte for their hard work and support.

If you’re looking to get involved with the Urban Farm, there are two ways to support our efforts:

1) Volunteer! During the summer, our public volunteer opportunities are a little more limited, since we have so many young helping hands. But we do have weekly early-morning composting projects, and we’d love to have you join us (a perfect way to make an impact but beat the heat!).
> Click here to sign up. 

2) Support our Urban Agriculture Program with a monetary gift.
> You can make a donation here. 
Be sure to type “Urban Agriculture Program” in the “description” field.

Planting sweet potatoes. These turn into vines with beautiful purple flowers (and the sweet potatoes are so fun to dig up once they're ready!)
Planting sweet potatoes. These turn into vines with purple flowers (and the sweet potatoes are so fun to dig up once they’re ready!)

If you have questions about the Urban Farm, please email me at josh@hon.org. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Farm updates throughout the growing season!






Josh demonstrates how to plant spinach at the Urban Farm.
Josh demonstrates how to plant spinach at the Urban Farm this spring.

Josh Corlew is Hands On Nashville’s Urban Agriculture Program Manager. He oversees the organization’s efforts to engage volunteers in service opportunities that empower them to gain gardening skills, learn about healthy eating choices, and help address our city’s food access issues. An AmeriCorps alumnus, Josh also has a secret past life as a Trekkie (he’s a big fan of the TV series Star Trek, for the uninitiated among us), and he has been known to participate in death-defying canoe trips.

Notes from the Farm – Summer Camp, Neighborhood Picnics & Harvest Time

By Adams Carroll, AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Urban Agriculture Program –

Working in a garden is a rare luxury. There is no wifi or fluorescent lighting, but rather the privilege of experiencing heat when the sun is baking and getting wet when it rains. At the Urban Farm, all of my senses are activated. I love the crunchy prickles on a cucumber vine, the tremendous hues of our marigold and sunflowers, and even the rich, muddy aroma of our compost bins. Walking the dewy rows of our garden each morning, I think about the back-breaking work that volunteers have contributed all year long.

It took hundreds of dedicated volunteers throughout the course of several projects this spring to create the 70’x70′ field, where lots of delicious vegetables now grow.

Hundreds of inspired volunteers have sweated upon this land, cultivating our thick clay soil with garden forks, turning compost pile upon compost pile, weeding with white knuckles under the hot noon sun. Their labor has been remarkable, and the results produced so far are truly significant.

Farmer Josh, left, and the Apprentices take a look at the beautiful rows of squash. Yum.

July begins the summer harvest, a favorite stop on any garden calendar. Already we have pulled pounds of squash, beans, cucumbers, kale, and radishes. And each day new crops threaten to be delicious and ready. But even before our first vegetable was plucked from its vine, the Urban Farm was producing results. I have the pleasure of working with our eight youth Apprentices, who grow each day as notable leaders. When they started with us just five weeks ago, they were eager and energetic. And still they are, except now they are seasoned experts, adeptly directing volunteer groups, confidently explaining the finer points of natural stormwater management or organic pest control.

I have watched the apprentices fascinate a farm full of 13-year-olds with soil tests, and challenge their peers to read nutrition labels and check ingredient lists. It is rewarding to watch the Apprentices develop into advocates for the land and its products. I learn something from them every day.

Urban Farm neighbors joined us for a picnic in June. Farmer Josh gave a tour of the Farm, fielded questions, and gathered great input from the neighbors.

Two weeks ago, our neighbors joined us on the Farm for a picnic. I love to hear their stories. Some are heartbreaking – stories of commercial development upstream exacerbating Mill Creek’s destructive tendency to flood – and others just make you wonder. Did you know that before Wimpole Drive was developed into a neighborhood, it was a farm where buffalo grazed? I really appreciate the Farm’s role as a space for neighbors to congregate, to meet each other informally on dog walks in the morning, and to share stories like the legend of the buffalo. We are lucky to have neighbors who are so curious and involved, who support us and push us to cultivate a true community asset, not just a field full of vegetables. With such strong community partnerships, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Urban Farm will be a resource to serve Nashville for decades to come.

7 lbs. Squash + 2 lbs. Kale + 1 lb. greens = 10 lbs. of food harvested last week by Martha O’Bryan Center kiddos at the HON Urban Farm Summer Youth Service Camp.

Farmer Josh has blogged about our summer camp before. And still there is so much more to say! I am grateful to Bethlehem Centers, the Martha O’Bryan Center, Youth Encouragement Services, and the other local nonprofits who have brought youth volunteers out to serve on the Urban Farm. The volunteers have struggled under heavy loads of wood chips in temperatures that would send most teens running for the air conditioning. And of course, their hard work is paying off. All of the produce they have grown is donated to meet pressing food needs in their communities.

I do hope that the skills and experiences that they gain at Youth Service Camp will inspire our youth volunteers to tend their own gardens and make healthy nutritional choices. Recently, a film crew came dropped in on a Youth Service Camp session. You really should check out their video:

Do you work with a group of young people who would be interested in serving at the Urban Farm this summer? E-mail me at adams@hon.org to check our availability. We gladly host groups of up to 60 to engage in fun garden activities and service learning. I encourage youth ages 11-18 to sign up for some of our Friday VolunTEEN days. Here is a list of those opportunities. Come join us on the Farm to see what is growing in Nashville! You can read more about the Farm here.

30 pounds of vegetables harvested by Summer Camp participants at the Farm today!

A native Nashvillian, Adams Carroll serves as AmeriCorps VISTA Member for HON’s Urban Agriculture Program. He oversees the development of the Urban Farm Apprenticeship and Summer Youth Service Camp program. A bicycling enthusiast and dedicated bike commuter, Adams is a volunteer with Walk/Bike Nashville, the Oasis Center, and Free Bike Shop. His longest bike ride? 3,500 miles across 14 states.