Civic Works Summer Program Exposes Baltimore City Kids to Farming, Cooking and Yoga

Article, written by Megan Knight, appears in WMAR Baltimore. Published July 10, 2014.

BALTIMORE - Baltimore City high school students are rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty on a farm and they don't even have to leave the city limits to do it.

Mission Thrive Summer exposes Baltimore city high students to cooking, farming, and fitness.  At first, the idea of hard labor doesn’t go over well with the kids.

"They have it in their head that this is going to be the most awful thing," said Brandin Bowden, the community programs manager for the Institute for Integrative Health.  "Then they get to do it and see the fruits of their labor and its rewarding."

Michelle Thompson, 15, has accepted that being dirty and sweaty is just part of the job.  "You're working on a farm, you expect to get your hands dirty," she said.  She won't let the sweat and dirt keep her from her goal of learning how to grow things, and growing as a person.

"I hope to learn more about myself and to learn how to garden because I’d like to start my own garden," she said.

Five days a week, the students work the land at the Civic Works Real Food Farm in Clifton Park.  When they're not caring for the produce, they're in the kitchen practicing their cooking skills to prepare lunch for their fellow farmers.

A couple of students gained so much from their experience on the farm last year, they decided to do it all over again.

"I got to know a little bit more about myself, about people, and what i should do to become more healthy," said Tykiera Simmons.

Mission Thrive also incorporates a physical aspect into the program.  The kids either do yoga or work with a physical fitness trainer.  They also work on their leadership and job skills.

The best part of the program for the adults is hearing that the kids are actually practicing what they learn.

"They come back and say 'I’m eating healthier' or 'I’m working out more' or 'I’m sharing these yoga tips with my mom," said Bowden.  "I’m always a little bit shocked.  I know I’m saying this, but you’re actually hearing me?" he says with a laugh.

And the kids can feel good about the food they’re helping to grow and harvest.  Its sold in low-income neighborhoods at farmers markets and on a mobile food truck.

For more information about Mission Thrive, click here .