Our First Two Years and Growing Strong

By: Gabrielle Hinahara
Location: Middleton, WI

Around this time two years ago, my sister Natalie and I hatched the idea for Growing Food and Sustainability. It’s amazing to see how far our program has come since then, when it was just words and a vague vision in our minds.

Our first year taught us so much: we kept a garden alive in a record drought, learned that 9 weeks of continuous summer camp is too much, discovered how to form a close-knit team in three months, and found out that working 55+ hours per week all summer ends up burning you out before the fall harvest. We met amazing kids, ate delicious produce, got a darker tan than ever before, and tried so many new things. It was exhausting, exciting, hard, inspiring, and we knew we wanted to give it a go for a second season.

8Campers Last Year

Year two has been so different! Much more different than I ever would have guessed. This year, people knew who we were! We had proven ourselves to some extent: we had harvest weights, compost weights, and a beautiful Youth Farm to show for ourselves. We had returning campers and interns and all of the knowledge that we gathered in the first year. We had the capacity to recruit a much larger team of interns: 6 in total (up from 2), who have been instrumental in our accomplishments this summer! We installed drip irrigation, built a fence, ran 6 weeks of summer camp, hosted an on-farm dinner, sold produce at the Downtown Middleton Farmers’ Market, donated produce, picked-up compost, and in our last week of the summer we’re finishing the reconstruction of the raised beds at Middleton High School and are planning our Second Annual Harvest Festival. (We hope you’ll join us!) Relationships with our community partners are stronger and expanding, and we really feel like our program could be here to stay.

1The Youth Farm in August!

One of the best things about this year is that it’s August and I don’t feel like I’m going to keel over in the field one hot sunny day. I still have energy for the fall, and I’m ready and excited to start working with MHS and CSCS students again. We have once again learned so much, and we have new ideas for how to keep improving GFS into the future. One of the projects that we’re really hoping to get off the ground in 2014 is the construction of an outdoor kitchen space at the Youth Farm. We’re also hoping to add some more entrepreneurial projects into the mix: possibly starting a rooftop garden for a local restaurant.

Next week, a few of us are heading to Charleston, West Virginia, for the August Gathering of Grand Aspirations, our fiscal sponsor. During the gathering, 20+ youth-led, sustainability projects from across the country will be sharing resources, ideas, and inspiration. We know that we’ll leave the gathering with even more energy and plans for the future! We hope that you will share your ideas with us as well!

1Last Year’s August Gathering Crew

To everyone who supported us, thanks for a great second year! At this point, we’re pretty sure that year 3 is going to be even better.


1Author: Gabrielle Hinahara co-founded Growing Food and Sustainability in 2011, and has been a program leader since then. She plans to spend her life working with local food, sustainable agriculture, and youth education.

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