Interview by Kathi Baxter, SF Rec & Park Urban Agriculture Program
Na’im Pierce, a high school senior, approached the SF Rec & Park Community Gardens Program with a unique proposal last year. He wanted to grow fresh produce for Bayview residents to combat food inequality. They connected Na’im with Adam Rogers Park Community Garden, a garden that needed some renewed interest and energy, and he literally dug right in.
Your team helped revitalize this garden space. Tell us what you have accomplished and what’s coming next for the garden.
When I first arrived there were a few beds with vegetables growing in them, but most of the beds were empty. The greenhouse was damaged and needed to be cleaned up. We have built new beds, added soil to some of the existing beds, and planted a lot of seedlings. I’m also glad that I’ve been growing enough food to give to members of the community and a soup kitchen down the street, as well as collaborating with other garden members in starting projects such as adding an herb garden, a vineyard, and hopefully, aquaponics in the future. I’ve also been able to form a connection with the community. I’ve received donations of items to help our work and formed connections with the people and organizations where we donate food.
What were you hoping to accomplish with your project, Bayview Backyardigans?
I wanted to create a community and self-sustaining garden that would provide healthy produce for the community’s residents, due to the lack of grocery store availability in the area.
What inspired you to apply for a Youth Empowerment Fund (YEF) Grant?
I had received a YEF grant to help fund my high school’s Black Student Union last year and was familiar with the process. I received a lot of support through the youth-led advocacy program with that project and they encouraged me to apply again to support our work at Adam Rogers. The $10,000 garden grant provided safety equipment like work boots and gloves, as well as tools to get us all started. We’ve also purchased a new greenhouse that we’ll be installing soon.
You inspired a lot of people to join you. How did you gather support and who else is involved?
I’ve received a lot of support from residents who live near the garden, especially Carla Duke. I’ve also received much support from my family, friends, teachers and counselors, and the Community Gardens Program staff. The grant allowed me to provide jobs for other youth including members of the San Francisco Citywide Black Student Union and other friends I have known since preschool.
As new gardeners, Bayview Backyardigans were able to grow nearly 300 pounds of food that you gave to hungry San Franciscans. How did you benefit from this experience?
I’ve learned a few things:
- If you stick to something, no matter how hard it may seem to reach your destination, you will eventually reach your goal.
- There will always be people supporting you and your actions may inspire others.
- Although it takes effort, starting a garden and growing your own food is not as complicated as it may seem.
What does the future hold for you?
It ultimately depends on where I go to college, but if I go out of state or far from home, I plan on helping in any way possible such as applying for grants and planning projects. But if I stay close, I can do all that and work in the garden in person.
Thank you Na’im! You are a true community leader. Rec & Park and your neighbors extend our warmest gratitude for your efforts.
Follow @bayviewbackyardigans on Instagram to see more of Na’im’s team in action.
If you know of youth with great ideas to help their community, encourage them to look into a San Francisco Youth Empowerment Fund Grant. For more information, visit Urban Services YMCA.
This piece was originally published in SF Rec & Park’s ComPOST, a newsletter featuring gardening tips, events, and stories from the Urban Agriculture Program’s 42 community gardens.