The moral of this Kiwanis tale: Farms can grow healthier veggies—and kids.
Story by Kimiko Martinez • Photos by Helen Arase
Where 17-year-old Adrian Lara Garcia grew up in Mexico, farms were good for one thing: getting paid as a laborer. So when the Boys & Girls Club of Fullerton, California, came up with the idea for a farm at Kiwanis Youth Park, Garcia certainly didn’t imagine he’d be learning about basic biology, the importance of eating organic foods or how to cook healthier meals.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Yes, Garcia single-handedly put up the fence at what’s become Fable Farms Fullerton—a beautiful farm-to-table space run by youth and community members. But he’s learned to flex a lot more skills than just his muscles.
“All of a sudden, these teens were caring for something,” says Michael Lozano, president of the Kiwanis Club of Fullerton and branch director of the Boys & Girls Club of Fullerton. “They now know what it is to nurture, take ownership and exuberate pride.”
Eighty Bug—a musician, artist, puppeteer and food blogger turned part-time instructor at the Boys & Girls Club and founder of Fable Farms—agrees.
“It was amazing watching the kids really learn to trust themselves,” she says. “The boys loved using the power tools. But when I took those tools out of their hands and gave them to the girls, they lit up, learning how to use a drill, put a bolt in, reinforce the bolsters. … But it wasn’t just constructing. And it wasn’t just having their hands in the dirt. It was the creation of it all. And that everything that comes out of the garden we get to take into the kitchen and cultivate something new.”
Garcia already knew how to cook, but Bug taught him a different style. “To cook healthier, with more vegetables,” he says.
Those lessons have lasted. Almost a year later, he’s still eating healthier—snacking on fewer chips, for example, and putting apples in his quesadillas.
Michael Tutty, 12, has taken it a step further. He used his new skill to build a garden in his backyard.
“We are so blessed for this program,” Lozano says. “It shows teens another way to healthy lifestyles.”
BGCA is a Kiwanis International Preferred Charity.
This story originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Kiwanis magazine