By Ashlee Wakefield, Communications and Fundraising Intern
Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project (ANV) was founded in August 2010 by Kelly Carlisle, so that young children could have a brighter start. ANV was born out of the negative inclinations often ascribed to Oakland. After continually hearing numerous news stories of the dangers of Oakland—i.e. being listed as a top most dangerous city in the U.S, the crime rate, statistics of teen prostitution and the 40% drop out rate of the youth in Oakland—Kelly Carlisle had to take action. Driven to imprint some of the change necessary to reduce these epidemics, Kelly set out to create a way for kids to invest in themselves. As a mother herself, she was eager to create a program where kids could take productive and meaningful actions without the hands of their parents.
“Kids are exposed to so much that they shouldn’t be, ANV is a program where children can just be children, providing them a safe sanctuary to be their age and learn in the process.”
The idea of putting a seed into the ground and watching it grow and blossom was the magic of gardening that captured Kelly’s heart. It was the understanding of a seed knowing what it was already going to be, and the clarity of the social injustices that serving in the U.S. military allowed Kelly to see which produced ANV.
To Kelly gardening is all about life lessons, and she uses activities on the farm and with the plants to teach such lessons to the youth who participate in ANV’s programs. Kelly creates the missing pieces for children and youth that a typical day in a classroom or playing outside do not provide. She uses the garden-as-classroom as an essential foundation and understanding of food production and to provide knowledge about healthy living, food justice, and economic viability. The Tassafaronga Garden and Recreation center provides a safe and creative outdoor space to instill such important factors and to allow children and youth to learn by doing. Children plan, plant, harvest and sell the produce they grow. That produce is then sold as ANV’s community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and 100% of the proceeds go into an education account for each individual child.
Community members are most appreciative of the garden that Kelly has created. With access to vegetables, people of the community are not only eating better and ridding health issues, but it actually brings people together and provides a peaceful place to relax.
The summer of 2012, Acta Non Verba established their summer camp, with a vision to get kids into something positive while their parents were at work. Beginning with 25 kids, and quickly declining to 7 kids, Kelly took note to the boredom that nothing but farming was inducing among her participants. So, she sought out a fun-maker to enhance the programs activities. The summer camp extended its activities to include gardening, camping, swimming, cooking and going on fun field trips. In 2013, the camp count was up to 40 and continued to grow. Now, the ANV summer camp hosts more than 75 kids, providing them hot breakfast and lunch prepared with produce from the garden. ANV also has a spring and winter camp as well, running 5 days a week.
ANV also hosts amazing learning experiences, workshops, and events for the entire community. You can join ANV on the first Saturday of each month to work in the garden and have a family dinner from 12:00 pm-4:30 pm.