Article27--Photo1-Douglass Community Garden

Principal Kelvin Bridges, My Brother’s Keeper task force Chair Broderick Johnson, chef Kwame Onwuachi, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Dr. Joe Leonard, USDA.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore to announce a new online toolkit aimed at aiding urban farmers in growing and marketing their produce.

The toolkit is available at usda.gov/knowyourfarmer. It consists of links to technical and financial assistance, including loans and grants, as well as local food directories. He was also there to view the students’ new community garden and to plant its final tree.

“By expanding access to nutritious foods and increasing awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, urban farms are making a real difference in the lives of many, while promising a brighter, healthier future for the next generation,” the Department of Agriculture said in a statement. “Urban agriculture is also bringing new, younger producers to the marketplace. Diverse communities across the country are seeing results with increased access to healthy, local foods, reduced crime, and the development of new opportunities in employment and education.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Broderick Johnson, chair of My Brother’s Keeper Task Force join students from Frederick Douglass High School to plant the final tree in the school’s garden.

Joining the Secretary of Agriculture was the chairman of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper task force, Broderick Johnson, and celebrity chef Kwame Onwuachi, owner of The Shaw Bijou in Washington, D.C. and a “Top Chef” contestant. The attendees discussed the importance of not only the community garden, which the students had started, but urban agriculture and the opportunities it provides to urban communities and their citizens.

In 2014 President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. Johnson, a Baltimore native, heads up the initiative and serves in the President’s cabinet.

“Community gardens are just one part of so many different things that we can focus on to help young people look at things that people might not give them an opportunity to look at like gardening and what that can mean for them today, in terms of their own health.” Johnson said. “It’s kind of improbable that people would think that you can have a garden here at Frederick Douglass High School and students can learn from it, but we’ve shown by being here today working with them that in fact lots of things are possible that people don’t think are possible.”