Detroit Future Youth make presence known at Earthworks Harvest Festival

September 21, 2011

DETROIT – Youth from the various programs affiliated with the Detroit Future Youth Program made their presence known from start to finish at the 2011 Earthworks Harvest Festival on September 17 at the Gleaners Food Bank Banquet Hall. The Harvest Festival began with a social hour and garden tours of the Earthworks facilities. It also include food stories by the Earthworks Youth Farmstand and closed with a special musical performance by the Rosa Parks Youth Violas and Violinists accompanying local hip hop artist Ilana “Invincible” Weaver, who is also a co-coordinator of the DFY Program.

“I think it went really well,” said Weaver’s DFY co-coordinator Alia Harvey Quinn. “It was youth lead and people definitely contributed to parts of the agenda. They got a chance to showcase the work that they were excited about, so it went well.”
That sentiment was shared by the Earthworks staff as several comments were made commending the increased youth presence at the event.

“It was huge. It’s unlike any of the other years that we’ve had,” said Earthworks Youth Program Coordinator Denis Rochac. “It’s becoming more and more young people oriented. I think that’s where the power should be. It’s a very powerful thing when we invite the youth to lead because they are going to lead this movement. They are the ones that are going to take us where we want to go.”

Earthworks is a program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen whose mission is to create a just food system. Earthworks promotes sustainable agricultural practices, nutrition education, media justice with local youth and adult leadership for ownership of Detroit’s food system.

Youth Farm Stand member Makea (left)draws
a ticket during the raffle as Shane Bernardo
holds the raffle box.
The DFY Program, of which Earthworks is a member, is made up of twelve organizations that are committed to working together to strengthen and deepen youth social justice organizing in Detroit. The program facilitates trainings, gatherings and retreats between the twelve organizations so that the organizations can continue to focus on their work while also building relationships with the other partners in the program.
DFY got a first hand look at the operation as Earthworks youth led them on a tour of the organization’s facilities. The youth visited the Earthworks offices, the soup kitchen, gardens and hoop houses, which are green houses where various vegetables are grown in a semi-controlled environment.
See more of the DFY trip to Earthworks at
“Our young people led two groups and the tour went great” Rochac said. “It was really exciting to see our younger youth actually take those leadership roles and that they are really excited about the space they’ve done a lot of work in and grown up in.
“Our hoop house was a big hit. Everyone was able to harvest some tomatoes. Mostly I think everyone got excited about gardening and food sovereignty. We did a walk-the-line workshop around food sovereignty, and I think that really sparked some good discussions around access and who is controlling the distribution and the access around food currently. Hopefully we can make that paradigm shift because lot of the visiting youth had questions.”

After the tour, the youth made their way over to Gleaners where they joined the larger gathering for the rest of the program. The program included an introduction by Earthworks Youth Farm Stand members Makea and Quinn, a welcome by Earthworks Farm Manager Patrick Crouch, and a prayer by Father Jerry Smith, Executive Director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. After dinner Julia Putnam of the Boggs Education Center led a discussion on youth leadership. That was followed by the Food Stories from the Farm Stand and a crowd-stirring closing with Invincible and the Rosa Parks Violas and Violinists.

DFY Coordinator Ilana "Invincible" Weaver and the
Rosa Parks Youth Violinists perform 
The Farm Stand is an entrepreneurship program that teaches youth between the ages of 12 and 17 how to grow their own food and sell it at local markets themselves. During the Food Stories, Earthworks youth shared an inter-generational oral history project that documents local history around food through interviews and storytelling.
“The Harvest Festival is more a friend raiser than a fund raiser,” Rochac said. “This is the time of year where we all come together. We invite all our friends to have a meal from the bounty of our garden. We ask our friends who are preparers of food to help us out with this party, and that’s what it is. It’s a party.”