Experiencing the Importance of Local Food Systems


by Courtney Hendrix, CFJC Intern

When I was young, I didn’t understand why my dad would plant a fruit and vegetable garden in our front yard. I remember looking out the front room window at the garden thinking, “Why does he have to plant that stuff there?” My dad was always in his garden but I never really paid attention to what he was doing; I was just annoyed that it got in my way when I wanted to use the yard as my personal playground. Fast-forward about twenty years, and I now find myself trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible about how I can grow my own food.

So what has changed my outlook on gardens in the last twenty years? I would have to say my interest in nutrition, my knowledge about the U.S. food system, and my desire to promote sustainable food systems. Now, I’m in no way claiming to be an expert on our food system, or nutrition, however, one doesn’t need to be in order to understand that our system needs to be reformed so that people can eat healthier foods. But, I’m not going to talk about the problems. I want to talk about how I decided to be a part of the solution, which brings me back to my desire to educate myself on how to grow organic foods.

This past June I decided to volunteer at Alameda Point Collaborative’s (APC) Growing Youth Project’s (GYP) Farm. The farm is directly across the street from where I live and everyday I would pass by and think to myself, “If I want to promote sustainable food systems, then I need to learn how to farm!” Finally, one day, I went to APC and started the process for me to be a volunteer with the organization. I have to admit, I went into this venture with a selfish frame of mind because I was focused on how my life would improve through education about how to plant, grow, and harvest my own produce, but the experience has been much more than that. In the short amount of time I have been involved with the farm I’ve come to understand that my time on the farm is not just benefiting me, because the work that is done is part of a bigger cause to promote food justice.

When I came to the farm I knew very little about its operations and programs. Over the last couple months I have learned that the farm was established out of a need for food security, healthy food options, and employment for APC residents. Besides the regular farm work of seeding, planting, harvesting, weeding, etcetera I’ve also facilitated lesson plans with GYP participants and assisted with the GYP Farm Stand. I had no idea that I was entering into such an amazing opportunity where I would be learning not only food production, but also learning what it takes for a community to achieve food self-sufficiency.

I originally planned to volunteer on the farm only over the summer, but I absolutely fell in love with it and it’s become something I want, and have to keep doing. After a couple hours on the farm I come home dirty, smelly, tired, and I don’t get paid; but the reward I receive from my involvement with the farm is far more than money could provide. Gaining knowledge of how to grow your own food, and at the same time helping others to improve their lives, are both invaluable opportunities that I’m fortunate to experience.

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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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