GATHER AND GROW
THE CULTURE OF GARDENING IS A “GRANDMOTHER AWAY” BY GEORGE BROOKS
Through STEAM education and urban agriculture, The Farm at South Mountain aims to reconnect South Phoenix with its agricultural roots while educating local youth and destroying food deserts. Pat Christofolo and Greg Brownell are working to build South Phoenix by reconnecting the community to its agricultural history. Pat is the owner of The GEORGE BROOKS Farm at South Mountain, and her husband Greg manages this star venue and has recently taken on the responsibilities of sustainability and community outreach. “About two years ago, Pat made a decision to reach out to the communities that surround The Farm, especially those that are north of The Farm,” said Greg Brownell. “We have one of the largest food deserts in Arizona just north of The Farm.” “We’ve taken on the responsibility of trying to change people’s attitude towards food. Trying to get into the schools to present science and to change attitudes about food, attitudes about agriculture, attitudes about gardening. It is an absolutely huge job, and we need all the help we can get. But, Pat is very determined that we are going to be a part of in this community,” said Brownell.
MOVING THE MISSION To make this dream a reality, The Farm has established the “Gather and Grow” program, "a sustainability area which exhibits urban farming and gardening scenarios.” They have created a curriculum that focuses on educating local families and children on different sustainable systems. The program is collaborating with
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local stakeholders to instill the community with a unified goal for a sustainable future. “Through our farming, gardening, composting and aquaponics programs, we strive to be a focal point that exemplifies sustainable practices on all scales. We are pursuing this effort by engaging local stakeholders and building lasting partnerships that support the development of the South Phoenix community,” said Brownell.
CONNECTING THE PAST TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE How the past connects to the future is critical to this program, according to Brownell. “In our part of town, we are not only trying to connect with agriculture. The thought is that if we can connect people to agriculture, we can connect them to their history. We can reconnect them to the agricultural part of their cultures; it will just make for a healthier community,” he said. “This history in time is not that far away,” said Brownell. “My calculations are that it is ‘a grandmother away.’ I talk to fairly young people, and I ask them if they have a garden, and the answer is almost universally, ‘no.’ Then I ask if their mom or dad had a garden, and some say ‘yes’ and some say ‘no.’ Then I ask if their grandparents had a garden, and in this part of town they almost all say ‘yes.’” “So, only two generations separate today from yesterday. There is an actual cultural disconnect, especially given a place with an agriculture history more than 4,000 years old,” explained Brownell. “The Hohokam were farming this area long before the Europeans came. So, it is not just that my grandmother grew greens or my grandfather had a great tomato. It is really a deeper understanding of the place that we live. Why our soils are the way they are. We are in a river bottom. We have a unique place in this Valley, and there are so many ways this