When you want to see something change, the best thing to do is start the change yourself. That is what Tucson Village Farm founder Leza Carter did, working for a local tribe as an outdoor educator through school gardens. That change is impacting her community in more ways than one, by fostering a hands-on learning environment through learning by doing.
Leza Carter’s first exposure to the benefits of kids getting their hands in the dirt to see how food grows was through education courses. The kids she teaches in Tucson, AZ are high risk and in most cases, severely malnourished. As time went on, the separated school gardens started to fall apart from lack of attention. Leza knew something needed to be done to create a more cohesive learning environment, from there her imagination took action. She had an idea for a centrally located urban farm that all schools would have access to and learn from. Tucson Village Farm was born.
Leza broke ground on Tucson Village Farm 10 years ago with help from her friends and personal tools from home. The farm now serves 15,000 kids and over 100 schools a year, the majority of which is delivered to low-income families. The farm also provides 55,000 hours of education. It has all been a labor of love for Leza and a true grassroots effort. The goal is to reconnect kids to a healthy food system, and to add more fruits and veggies to their diet.
We arrived at Tucson Village Farm just before about 4 buses loaded with second graders showed up. With a quick hello to Leza and her team, we joined the students in line to begin the day. We went to different stations, stopping to dig in the dirt while learning. We learned more about carrots by pulling them out of the ground, washing it and eating it as a snack. Then we talked about whole grains, enjoying them in a bagged of freshly popped corn.
It was encouraging to see the kids and their connection to the food. They also learned about bees, chickens, greens, and more. We could hear exclamations of excitement as they made their way through the farm. Each student was excited about different things. It was clear that the farm is hitting the mark and reaching Leza’s goals, one student at a time.
Full Circle Impact
When the day was done and the kids loaded back on the bus, we spent a time with the staff and volunteers at Tucson Village Farm. They ranged from 4-H kids working on a project, to a young man who was so impacted by his time at the farm, he wanted to pay it forward to other kids. His help had extended the farm’s reach to more kids who really need the farm…just like he did.
Leza is a FarmHer who had a vision for change. That vision turned into forward action to create an amazing program that serves thousands of kids in her city each year. Her passion and hard work is creating change for kids by showing them something new and different, allowing them to get their hands dirty as they experience the farm to see where their food comes from. The community of Tucson is lucky to have her – and we were lucky to experience the blessing she is.