COMMUNITY LEADERS GUIDING OTHERS, BRINGING A SENSE OF HOPE DURING THESE CHALLENGING TIMES
Executive Director of Urban Roots
By Natasha Bourlin
When she saw her eldest son, a super-finicky eater attending an Urban Roots farm camp, pluck kale from the ground, eat it, then suggest the family have it for dinner, a passion — not just incredulity — ignited for the organization within Fayth Ross.
“I don’t know what that magic was . . . experiencing caring for that plant, watering and nurturing it,” Urban Roots’ current executive director Ross says. “But I saw through my son that kids were much more likely to eat their veggies if they had a hand in growing it.”
When an executive position for the organization that put a vegetable in her son opened, she immediately jumped at the opportunity to apply.
Urban Roots is a registered 501(c)(3) organization that “strives to change the way children eat and learn through garden-based education.” Their programming teaches children appreciation for gardening and how to grow their own food through farm school summer camps, school gardens and field trips. With the onset of COVID-19, they did a 180 in terms of how to continue to serve children during school closures and social distancing requirements.
But, thanks to COVID-19, they weren’t sure their doors could stay open.
The Urban Roots team, with Ross at the helm, developed home activity kits just as gardening fever, along with mandatory quarantining, hit in spring 2020. They included pots, seeds, an age-appropriate gardening book, a recipe, plus materials to do an art or science project, and were translated into Spanish as well.
Of these kits sold on their website, 73 percent were provided free to low-income and essential workers’ families. Another 3,600 were committed to schools and families.
Created to be educational and fun for homebound families, it was so successful that the USDA asked Urban Roots to present nationally as one of only three innovational invitees.
Yet it was their summertime virtual fundraiser that solidified the nonprofit’s future through the pandemic. Approximately $87,000 was raised during a free, three-hour online event that incorporated musicians, chefs and farmers live streaming. Created to be educational and fun for homebound families, it was so successful that the USDA asked Urban Roots to present nationally as one of only three innovational invitees.
Ross says being forward thinking is essential today. Her team helps with staying ahead of the game during this pandemic. As an added educational element, a kitchen will open in summer 2021 on their central Reno campus. They’re looking forward to fostering many more kale eaters. urgc.org