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Youth farmers’ graduation ceremony

EFG Youth Program

FFG youth program students with Grace Lee Boggs (center)

By Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen

The Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership recently hosted a ceremony to award certificates to seven young people, ages 11 to 18, who successfully completed the Feedom Freedom Growers (FFG) 2012 youth farm mentorship program.

Over the summer, the students worked with FFG founders Myrtle and Wayne Curtis and other mentors on a variety of projects, which developed their skills and also nurtured friendships and a strong sense of community.

They planted, watched over and harvested fruits and vegetables. Then they used these crops to prepare healthy meals. They thought about what they were cooking and eating and encouraged other young people to become involved in and understand the process of bringing healthy food to our community.

They also worked with one of Detroit’s community leader’s, Yusef Shakur, to prepare and serve the meal at the Urban Network’s schoolbag giveaway at the beginning of the school year.

Over the summer, the students were challenged to explore the many aspects of becoming informed activists and effective change agents. They learned how to share their knowledge in interviews. Under the direction of Linda Campbell, they called members of Congress to speak against proposed Farm Bill cuts to SNAP, reminding the politicians that in a democracy the most important voice is the voice of the people. One young woman traveled to Arizona to participate in an anti-bullying conference and emphasize the importance of nonviolent conflict resolution. Another became involved with Detroit Summer.

During the ceremony, an 11-year-old girl shared her poem, passionately expressing how she was going to be the change in the world. Her poem captured the rich history of Detroit and spoke confidently of the place she has claimed for herself as a visionary for Detroit’s future.

Everyone at the ceremony, which included the families and friends of graduates, was amazed and impressed by the level of leadership the youth projected. From planting the seeds to serving the harvested food in delicious, wholesome dishes, the youth demonstrated that they had learned the cycle of growing food to sustain healthy communities.

Myrtle called our attention to the critical thinking skills and relationships of trust and respect they had acquired using visuals and books. Elder brother Aziz expressed his appreciation to the FFG community for carrying out the dream of the late Gerald Hairston, who founded the Gardening Angels, an urban gardening project for Detroit elders.

Looking at the faces of these amazing young people, it was clear to me that they understood that this ceremony was not an end but the prelude to something new and exciting. It was easy to see that they are determined to live their lives creatively and responsibly. Their journey as youth farmers stands as a model to Detroit and the world. We can be assured that a new Detroit is being cultivated and is safe in the capable hands of these young people.

It was a great honor and pleasure to be part of this ceremony. Educators could learn a lot from the FFG curriculum, which prepares young people to become the kind of citizens every community needs.

The message I gave to the young farmers is that they are important activists and visionaries and that by learning the principles of collective work, they strengthen community. By learning how to sell at market, they are helping create a new kind of work, a new kind of culture that will develop economies that put the good of the community above the needs of the individual.

Contact Grace Lee Boggs at

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