Building Community and Growing Food with the Next Generation

April 19, 2018

Greeting parishioners alongside a church parking lot, a four-acre parcel with the accessibility of an urban farm and the mission of a non-profit has been quietly producing and providing food to community members. Sola Gratia Farm is a community-based farm in Urbana, Illinois that is dedicated to producing locally grown, high-quality, natural produce. The community farm has been committed to helping those who lack access to fresh produce since 2012. With a CSA, a youth day camp, community workshops, and other activities, the farm promotes healthy lifestyles and community building. 

In summer of 2014, Sola Gratia Farm partnered with the Champaign County Farm Bureau and the Champaign Park District to offer a Beginning Farmers day camp for youth aged 6-11. Sola Gratia Farm’s portion of the day camp covered basics of vegetable growing, healthy eating, healthy cooking, and beekeeping.

In 2015, Traci Barkley of Sola Gratia Farm received a $2,000 Youth Educator grant from NCR-SARE to continue to work with youth, focusing her efforts on developing and building a community garden during after school programming.

The work included planning and development of a community vegetable garden. 20-25 students participated in vegetable growing and pollinator work, and learned about vegetable preparation and cooking, soil health, tools, and cultivation techniques. “This group of kids largely went from disinterest, fear of getting dirty, and general squirreliness to taking ownership in the garden, asking deeper and deeper questions about growing food, and great enthusiasm for every task from planting, weeding, harvesting, mulching, trellising, and especially watering,” said Barkley. 

“What we feel most proud of was that their concern for having their very public garden ‘messed with’ or ‘stolen from’ turned to a desire to give the produce away to those that need it most or to take home to their families with a genuine sense of pride.”

For more information on Satterthwaite’s NCR-SARE Youth Educator grant project, visit the SARE project reporting website or contact the NCR-SARE office.

 View Tracy Barkley's presentation on this presentation on this project, from the 2017 Farmer's Forum, through NCR-SARE's Youtube playlist. Visit for this and other videos. 

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Topics: Crop Production
Related Locations: North Central