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April 2021

Monthly Vine Update: Food, Fun, & Field Trips

April was a short month for the TGG internship because of a well-deserved Spring Break, but it was still packed with important lessons from the Healthy Living vine!

The Teens continued exploring the theme of “Food as Story” with two documentaries that tell quite different stories about food production in this country: Food, Inc. and The Biggest Little Farm. Robert Kenner’s 2008 film is a scathing indictment of corporate control of the food industry while John Chester’s 2018 film documents the big dreams, trials, and tribulations of one couple as they create an Edenic ecosystem from hundreds of acres of hard, dry land.

In TGG’s quest to give the Teens the knowledge, skills, and mindsets to control their own healthy food choices, we again sought the services of Lisa Kingery and Stephanie Meyer of FoodRight, Inc. to show them how to prepare whole food, plant-based recipes right in their own kitchens, with some useful knife and pan skills to boot. For four consecutive Thursdays, Kelli, Mikaela, Dominic, and FoodRight’s Molly delivered ingredients to the Teens so they could make a meal for their family that evening: chickpea burgers one day, then tofu stir fry, minestrone soup, and finally fajitas. Mmm.

Stay tuned for next month’s blog, because for the next four weeks, the Teens will learn from four more local chefs as each one elevates a single healthy ingredient into a fabulous and tasty appetizer!

If the culinary lessons are our answer to FoodRight’s dire state of mass-produced food, then our interview with superstar Will Allen and upcoming superstar Tyler Schmitt was our answer to our The Biggest Little Farm: Was there ever, could there ever be, a “big little farm” in Milwaukee? The answer, of course, is yes! The Teens interviewed Allen, who founded and ran the world-renowned Growing Power on 55th and Silver Spring for almost three decades, and Schmitt, who now runs the farm site as The Ultimate Collaborative Farm, hoping to renew its vibrancy as a model for urban agriculture with a mixture of farming, coffee drinking, and musical events. It was a pleasure to hear both of their visions past, present, and future.

Finally, it’s no surprise that the Teens (and Staff) are itching to start doing instead of just learning, especially on screen. And they’re itching to get outside and get to know each other masked face to masked face.

So late in April, a group of Southside Teens composed of Tylon, Lizzy, and Elysium, prepared and presented three short sessions about plant growth and personal growth to 4th graders at Longfellow Elementary, getting a chance to flex their leadership and planning skills.

And both cohorts enjoyed a Saturday morning field trip, each with get-to-know-you activities and short hikes: Northside Teens explored Havenwoods State Park and Southside Teens explored Jackson Park, with get-to-know-you activities, tree identification, and hiking. It was so nice to interact with the Teens in person, and they would say the same!


NS Teen of the Month: Jaden Funches, who has really stepped into a leadership role this month. He is an active part of our advisory group, Teens Grow Teachers (TGT), and he is very easy to work with. On top of that, Jaden has been cheering on other Teens to help them step out of their comfort zones.

NS Most Improved Teen: Breonne Jones, who is someone who has been opening up and expressing herself since day one. Kelli is always so happy to see Breonne with her camera on and always so willing to answer when called on. Thank you so much for being amazing!

SS Teen of the Month: Amadia Wilson, who models respect and authenticity every time she shows up to a Teens Grow Greens session. She is an active participant, excellent communicator, and so true to herself. Amadia’s genuine character helps make TGG a place where other Teens feel confident to be themselves.

SS Most Improved Teen: Sierra McCarthy, who, during the month of April, truly embodied the Three R’s of Teens Grow Greens. She was responsible in communicating and maintaining participation, even taking a new opportunity to be a Teens Grow Teacher mentor. Sierra was also resilient in working through some difficulties during a family trip and maintained respect for her fellow Interns and Educators.

The Last Word

by Dominic Inouye

It’s clear to me from the update above that the last word for April should be “transformation.”

Transformation from winter to spring, from corporate controlled food to healthy whole food, from idyllic dreams in a film to idyllic realities in the heart of Milwaukee. And the transformation of the Teens and the communities they’ll be serving is just beginning . . . stay tuned!

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