Hi folks. I'd like to share with you some great news about what's happening in the Southwest area of the city - it's a feel-good story filled with commitment, small wins and deep appreciation in the form of heartfelt thanks from those that call this area home. Neighbors see a huge transformation occurring, stopping by to take in what's happening and learn more about the efforts at the Southwest Area Neighborhood Association's Grow Green Greenhouse - our community urban garden.
I've been volunteering at SWAN since the beginning of this year. I was moved to do so when I learned about the work of the organization and the love my son Rawson Duckett has for its mission, the kids he teaches about (urban) agriculture, and for the community at large. Last year was his first year there - Rawson came on board as a volunteer, and it wasn't long before the woman in charge left for a full-time job. He was faced with a decision to stay and shoulder the entire responsibility himself with no assistance or funds, or walk away. He chose to stay.
It was not an easy year at the Greenhouse for him, and there was a steep learning curve. Trying to breath life into the abandoned program; come up with donations of seed, soil and money for tools and supplies; find volunteers to water, weed and harvest; and put together an after school program for the kids utilizing the Greenhouse and garden space was overwhelming at times. Additionally, he was a vendor at Westside Farmer's Market, and maintained his own small business. He was working seven days a week.
Rawson's commitment to teaching others the benefits of growing your own food and healthy eating comes from years of learning all this on his own; doing so for himself and his five-year-old daughter Lina, who is as much a part of the Greenhouse as he is. Rawson has deep family roots in the 19th Ward, living in the house where his Grandmother lived. Five years ago, he converted his backyard into his own growing oasis, growing vegetables and herbs, and built a chicken coop for his four egg layers. He believes that food is medicine, and medicine is food.
As Manager of the Greenhouse Rawson works in tandem with JaMone Alexander, executive director, SWAN, to provide an educational and fun experience for the kids who attend the after school program. Additionally, we are mid-way through our Summer Camp Program and we often have between 10 and 12 children at each session, learning about composting, planting, tasting as they walk around the raised beds containing colorful fruits and veggies. And, twice a month we hold a community garden workshop day, as well as a potluck dinner.
Rawson is passionate about his work and his efforts to counter the effects of the critical lack of proper food systems in the 19th Ward, the southwest area of the city and beyond. JaMone is passionate about enriching the lives of kids, setting them on the proper course, and about the future of SWAN - it is infectious and a delight to see these two in action!
We have a Facebook page for which I've provided you the link, as well as a link to a YouTube video that was produced last year at the greenhouse that will give you sense of what we're doing.