Farmer Spotlight :: Urban Roots
When you find yourself at Urban Roots, you’ll never want to leave. Only a few miles from downtown Austin, this piece of land used to be called Oasis Gardens Farm, and we understand why. Not only does this farm produce incredible vegetables (if you haven’t had an Urban Roots beet yet, you’re missing out) they’re also a non-profit teaching teens leadership and farming skills while providing access to healthy food in Austin.
Yep, this is what an oasis looks like.
Urban Roots was founded in 2007 as a program of YouthLaunch, and started the process of becoming an independent non-profit agency in the fall of 2011. Each year, the farm sets the goal of growing 30,000 pounds of produce with 40% of it going to local soup kitchens and food pantries. For 25 weeks during the spring and summer, Urban Roots provides paid internships to Austin youth, who develop life and job skills while growing food for the Austin community. The interns get to know this 3.5 acre plot of land, getting their hands dirty and learning what it takes to grow a tomato.
With open volunteer days Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8-12 and some select Saturdays, there are plenty of opportunities to go check out the farm. After spending a volunteer day harvesting carrots, I was reminded how much work goes into growing food and how much joy can be found in getting outside and getting involved.
While on the farm, I had the pleasure of talking with Blake Hill, Urban Roots farm manager, and Meg Mattingly, the Farm Education Specialist. As we chatted amongst the tomato plants, it became clear that while they love farming, this place, and their work, is for the youth. “The most important thing Urban Roots does is serve these teens. It gives them skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their life,” Mattingly said.
During their most recent open house, I had the honor of hearing from four of their youth interns. It was inspiring to listen to these young people talk about the impact Urban Roots has had on their lives. They spoke of the opportunities this organization provides, how they never thought they’d be good at public speaking, and how much confidence they’ve gained from their internship. “Out here, these kids learn to be the best versions of themselves,” Hill said.
While food insecurity, obesity and hunger rates are on the rise, Urban Roots is a breath of fresh air. Check it out for yourselves, you’ll leave the farm a better, more inspired person… We promise.