Photo courtesy of Jessica Luse
In January 2010, Tucson Village Farm broke ground with the use of three borrowed tools, a few packets of donated seeds and a dream of growing an urban farm for — and with — Tucson's youth.
Over the past five years, that dream has grown to include an acre of organic vegetables, daily education programs that serve many thousands of youth, and a visit in 2012 from First Lady Michelle Obama. Since the groundbreaking, Tucson Village Farm, at 4210 N. Campbell Ave. in Tucson, has grown 160 percent compounded annually, for an overall growth rate of 1,685 percent. The number of youth and adults served has increased from 1,300 in 2010 to 22,300 in 2014.
Tucson Village Farm is a program of the UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and UA Cooperative Extension. It is an education-based farm that reconnects youth to a healthful food system. It teaches them how to grow, prepare and eat fresh food, which empowers them to make good life choices.
Thanks to support from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the hard work and dedication of community volunteers, interns and AmeriCorps members, Tucson Village Farm expanded its reach this past summer to include additional infrastructure, acreage, outdoor classrooms and programming.
"This is a true testament to the need for this innovative programming within our community," says Elizabeth Sparks, assistant agent for 4-H Youth Development.
The farm's expansion will create the capacity to double food production, increase programming at the high school and college levels, and expand the livestock component through collaboration with other CALS animal husbandry programs.
The expansion also will provide land on which to build a commercial kitchen, classroom and retail space.
"This 'cooperative kitchen' is an essential element in our goal to empower youth to make healthy food choices," Sparks said. "Food preparation is a lost art. With Arizona childhood obesity rates nearing 30 percent and one out of three Arizona residents projected to be living with diabetes by 2040, we feel strongly that teaching youth to redefine their relationship to healthy eating is the golden arrow that will shift this current trend toward a healthier trajectory."
The kitchen, as well as additional classrooms and retail space, will be added pending successful fundraising.
Visit Tucson Village Farm on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TucsonVillageFarm.