Teens Gather for Good, and for Inspiration, Too

by 
Tara Campbell, Food Moxie Youth Education Coordinator
Julia Lemyer photo
When young people gather, the blender bike always gets a good workout.

On Aug. 2, Food Moxie and the Teen Leadership Corps co-hosted the second annual Gather for Good, a conference planned by teens and for teens. More than 80 young people attended from youth and urban agricultural organizations across Philadelphia.

The conference took place at the Teen Leadership Corps farm at Awbury Arboretum. Youth had the opportunity to share their experiences, show off their skills, and delve deeper into some of the more scientific aspects of farming. A main goal of the conference was to connect youth to urban gardens in their community and Philadelphia’s vast urban agricultural network. Throughout the day, recurring statements were overheard: “I can’t believe there’s a farm so close to my house!” and “I never knew there were so many people farming in Philadelphia!” I think the goal was achieved.  

Morning activities focused on STEM learning, so it was appropriate that our opening speaker was a scientist. Aja Carter, a Ph.D. student from the University of Pennsylvania studying paleontology, explained what it takes to be a scientist — a question that you love, and the burning desire to work hard to answer that question. Speaking of, you know the age-old question: ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’ Aja helped us answer this question using deductive reasoning. What came before chickens? Dinosaurs! And since dinosaurs come from eggs, the egg came first! Her talk inspired the teens to put on their scientist hats and participate in a rotating series of workshops. There was a soil science lab to dig deeper into dirt, they tested vegetable nutrient content using a refractometer, the TLC teens led a tour of Awbury Arboretum’s Agricultural Village, and Dottie Baumgarten, an educator for the Philadelphia Water Department, demonstrated how land use affects watersheds. 

Thunderstorms brought our morning activities to an abrupt halt, so we huddled 80-plus people into TLC’s indoor classroom and sheltered porch to enjoy a nutritious and delicious lunch made by the TLC teens. All of the dishes were vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten free and used fresh vegetables from the TLC and Food Moxie farms. Lunch and breakfast were complimented by smoothies mixed in a blender bike built by John Siemiarowski of Electrical Wizardry. Special thanks to John for the use of his bike, which was a huge hit! 

The highlight of the day was the youth-led afternoon workshops. The Food Moxie teens led a pickle-making demonstration and a natural beauty care workshop. Our teens spent weeks researching and testing recipes. All products made used items sourced directly from the farm. They made a cucumber toner, strawberry hair mask and various body scrubs. The TLC teens made a variety of teas using dried herbs from their garden. Teens for Good participants operated an incredibly professional art station and photo booth. 

Nyseem Smith from Soil Generation, a young person who is an emerging community leader, closed the day by delivering a valuable message on the importance of making your voice heard. He encouraged youth to stand out by making sure teachers and influential adults know them, to ask a lot of questions, and to take advantage of every available opportunity. He stayed afterward to help connect teens to important resources and exciting events happening for young people of color involved in urban agriculture. Thank you, Nyseem, for your wise words, your time, and for all of the work you do to inspire the next generation of youth leaders! 

Despite the weather, Gather for Good was once again a huge success. Check our Facebook page and Instagram feed (@foodmoxie) for more pictures! We look forward to working with Anna Herman and her TLC crew next year, and potentially partnering with other urban agricultural organizations, to make the third annual Gather for Good even bigger and better yet!