Thanks for joining us for another episode of Patrons & Partnerships, presented by the Library Partnership Branch of the Alachua County Library District.
Our guest today is Claire Mitchell, the founder and executive director of Brave Harvest, Gainesville’s local urban farm. Claire founded Brave Harvest to increase food literacy and empower youth and adults in Alachua County to make healthy food choices from plant to plate, partly by providing youth and adults a chance to get hands-on in the garden. In this conversation, we talk about Brave Harvest's partnerships with the community, their partnership with Curia and the Auk Market, and how you can get involved.
Due to the holidays, this is the only episode that will be published in December. The first half of this episode was published on November 4th and can be found here.
Brave Harvest: https://www.braveharvest.org/
Get Involved: https://www.braveharvest.org/get-involved
Holiday Storytime: https://www.aclib.us/blog/story-time-green-holiday-edition
Visit the Alachua County Library District website to browse our collection and to find other resources and services offered at your favorite, local library!
You can view a transcript of this podcast on ACLD's YouTube Channel.
Hi, thanks for listening to another episode of Patrons & Partnerships. Our guest today is Claire Mitchell, the founder and executive director of Brave Harvest, an urban farm right here in Gainesville that aims to increase food literacy and empower youth and adults in Alachua County to make healthy food choices from plant to plate. This episode has been edited for length and clarity. Unfortunately, due to the holidays, this will be the only episode published in December. We’ll see you again in 2022! [music]Claire:
Afternoon buys so much stuff from us. They're like a really great restaurant because they are really creative and offer a lot of specials and are happy to try lots of new things with the vegetables I bring them. [laughs] It doesn't matter how weird it is. It's like, Oh hey, I have this purple kohlrabi and I have flowering cilantro and I have all this stuff, the chefs get really excited to experiment and make delicious food with the produce that we bring them.Eleanore:
Good ideological match. Claire: Yes. It's a perfect match.Claire:
And so the fundraiser will feature a multicourse meal with our vegetables. And there's also going to be an optional pre-dinner cocktail hour at Brave Harvest, and that will have natural wine that's in Afternoon's wine club. We’ll also do a farm tour so people can see where all this food was grown and ask any questions they might have about gardening or about how we've set up our farm or any kind of kids activities that we have coming up. Tickets are available at our website, braveharvest.org. We hope to see you there.Eleanore:
That sounds very fun. I know from my own experience seeing the farm, I was very impressed at how much you manage to fit on such a small plot of land. The size of the harvest you get compared to the size of the plots is very interesting.Claire:
Yeah, you know, like - we have raised beds at Brave Harvest. And so that allows us to have a little more control of our growing conditions because we get to fill them with a really rich soil mixture. We have irrigation that helps us regulate the water without having to do like, overhead sprinklers or anything. And the raised beds really cut down on weeds because they're growing above the ground, not in the ground, so they're not susceptible to as many weeds as a regular farm might have. So yeah, it's really impressive. I'm always impressed with [laughs] how much we harvest. We harvested - since the beginning of 2021, we've harvested 550 pounds of food for donation. And that's just donation. You know, we harvested food for volunteers to take home, we harvested food for restaurants. And so it's pretty amazing how much you can grow. So yeah, all those 550 pounds went to Bread of the Mighty Food Bank. And that's an important thing of what we do too, is just making sure that we grow something for our community, for people who rely on food pantries and food banks to supplement their groceries. And it's always tough for food banks to keep fresh produce in stock, so that's one small thing that we like to do is to keep some of our beds for donations only to make sure that we always have something to donate.Eleanore:
Could you talk a little bit more about the internships?Claire:
Yes. This year for the first time we have... four interns? Yeah, we have four interns this year. And it's not incredibly formal. What I do try to do is engage the interns' interests, like what do they really want to learn, and tailor the work that they do at the farm to meet those interests. So for example - well, I guess we have five interns. We have some people helping with youth programs specifically. And these people are either interested in working with kids or interested in cooking or both. We have a girl working to help with the Eat Your Plants class and another girl to help with the project Youth Build workshops. And so that is just such an amazing help. But it's also an opportunity for interns to learn a little more in depth about the things that they want to know. And we also - this is a pretty special partnership, too - we're working with the GET program, Garden Education and Training Program, I believe is what that stands for. And that's out at Grow Hub at Lofton High School. And that's a program for students who have just graduated from high school, 18 to 22, with special needs or ESE students. And so they are learning life skills and vocational skills and are going out into the community and interning at all sorts of different places. So we actually have an intern from the GET Program who - you know, she's about to graduate and this is just a way for her to be in a work environment and learn more social skills so she can be more qualified and have more experience for a job when she graduates from the program. So that's a pretty neat partnership that is new as of this year and I'm pretty excited about. So another thing we do that's a help to the farm, but also kind of a community service and outreach is we have volunteer hours during our growing season, so September through the end of June. In the fall and winter volunteer hours are every Thursday 3 to 5pm. Just because it gets dark so early. It gets dark, the sun goes down around five, so we kind of have to pull volunteer hours when it still light out. So from November through daylight saving time in March, we're out at the farm every Thursday, 3 to 5pm, except for holidays. So I always keep everybody updated on Instagram and Facebook if there any changes to that schedule. So you can follow us at Brave Harvest Farm on Instagram and Facebook for any kind of farm updates, including volunteer hour updates. And then in the spring, they will be on Thursdays from 5 to 7pm so people can come after work. It's actually really fun most of the time if you get a good group of people out there, and there's always good energy. It's really nice to be outside and working on a common goal with other people who are interested in the same thing that you are. So it could be anything from planting, harvesting - we did a huge farm cleanup, with moving [laughs] all of the little piles of things that have accumulated over the past few years, keeping it looking nice. We also like to send volunteers home with food. That's our little perk that we give to people when they do come. And so it's just a way for people to learn about gardening. If you have any questions about gardening, or you're interested in learning how to grow things, this is a really good hands-on opportunity in the city to come and learn some new skills. And some of our volunteers have gone on to start their own gardens at home. And they learned enough from coming regularly that they felt confident enough to put it to use.Eleanore:
You’re learning a useful hands on skill. It's a lot of fun to go out there and just do something physical.Claire:
Yeah. And when you're done, you see a difference of what you did, you know, whether it's you harvested that, you know, entire bed of beets, and you have them all bunched up and ready to go. Or you needed a bed, you can see the before and after, or the bed was empty before and then there's little seedlings in it. And another really cool thing, I think it's always neat when people plant seeds, the week after everything is all sprouted, and it's already growing. I don't know, gardening is so tangible. It is just so hands-on. Just - it's being observant and seeing all the changes that happen. I don't know. It's just like a very fulfilling, very cool way to see time passing. People will come back, like they'll come to volunteer hours and come back two weeks later and the garden looks like, totally different. It's just a very neat, visceral way to observe the world around you.Eleanore:
What support would you like to see from the community?Claire:
Brave Harvest is a nonprofit, but we’re really trying to grow the organization to be able to hire support. You know, when people think about donating to a nonprofit, they want to think about oh, I donated to pay for this infrastructure or I donated to pay for a scholarship or something like that. But nonprofits have to be able to employ people in order to keep the work going and to be able to carry out the organization's mission. One of the ways that we fund our organization is through the sales of hot sauce. We grow peppers at the farm. People have told me like, multiple times - I'm not joking, I’m not just tooting my own horn - like, it was the best hot sauce they've ever had. The reason that it is so good is because there's only five ingredients and it's like very, very much focused on the flavor of the pepper. We have a few different kinds of hot sauce, but it's one kind of pepper in the hot sauce. The hot sauce is for sale at the Auk Market and that's located on the Curia property, as are we. We’d like to expand partnerships with the business community and to find corporate sponsors in the local area who believe in what we're doing. So if you are a local business and you are interested in helping us to empower and inspire families to eat more vegetables through cooking and gardening, that's something we'd love to talk to you about. I just want to say, Curia has been such a huge supporter of the farm from the beginning. The owner of Curia has always wanted a garden on the property. The restaurant sits on like almost two acres of land. And there is a spot where the farm is now, was just lumber storage and salvage materials storage. And so we - with their help and support, we've been able to turn it into a really beautiful green space. And we're really thankful for Curia and everything that they do for us. It's just been such an amazing opportunity to create something really beautiful in a spot where there was nothing really before. We're always thankful for Curia for, for helping us out in that way.Eleanore:
I mean, what you're doing is just really cool. You have an actual urban farm that produces enough food to stock kitchens and family pantries.Claire:
Yeah, we - we grow food for the Curia’s kitchen. Curia has a vegan food truck that they run on their property. And so we grow arugula and tomatoes and kale and cilantro and other things for their kitchen, and that shows up on their menu. If you do ever visit Curia, they have really great coffee, they have great food. And then another store on the Curia property is the Auk Market. And it's a local handmade, vintage market. They sell all kinds of really cool clothes and jewelry and art and home goods. And they also sell our hot sauce. That's where it's available pretty much all the time. And they also do online sales and shipping, so if you are out of town and you want to - or you just want to send hot sauce to somebody, [laughs] you can buy it from the Auk Market online store.Eleanore:
And where can people find you online?Claire:
We have a website, braveharvest.org. We have like, an event sections. So for any upcoming events, they'll be listed there. We also post recipes that use produce that we grow. So if you're ever looking to browse easy, cheap recipes using produce you might be unfamiliar with, we have a few recipes there too. We also have an Instagram, and that’s braveharvestfarm, and a corresponding Facebook, that's also braveharvestfarm. Social media is updated more regularly than the website. So if there's something you were curious about, you can always get on Instagram and see what we're doing. You can email us as well at email@example.comEleanore:
And I really recommend that people follow your Instagram. I follow you and I love to see your stories because you post what you're cooking, and it always looks delicious.Claire:
Oh yeah. Yeah, we have some highlighted recipes too on our Instagram. I was trying to do - [laughs] I was trying to do like, TikTok videos too. It's just - I love doing that kind of stuff and I really do love showing the process of cooking, it’s just that - it's just another… It takes a lot of time. [laughs] Eleanore: Yeah. But yeah, if you ever cook anything using either our produce or our recipes, make sure to tag the farm, we love to see what people are cooking too.Eleanore:
Thank you for letting us interview you today. This was a very interesting conversation.Claire:
Yeah, it was really nice talking with you. And thank you.Eleanore:
Have a good day.Claire:
Okay, bye, Eleanore. Eleanore: Bye! [music] Thanks for listening to Patrons & Partnerships. The first half of this episode was published on November 4th and can be found anywhere you listen to podcasts. Again, due to the holidays, this will be the only episode published in December, so happy holidays and happy new year from ACLD. We’ll see you again in 2022! If you know of an individual or organization you’d like to recommend for an interview, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To listen to more episodes, find us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. And be sure to check out the Alachua County Library on Spotify while you’re there for chill playlists to read to, hand-picked by our librarians. Happy holidays from ACLD! Our gift to you this year is access to hoopla, our new music and video streaming service. Enjoy instant access to thousands of albums, comics, and movies from any device with the hoopla app. There’s no need to place a hold - all of the content is available on demand at any time. To check it out, go to aclib.us/hoopla. Library staff are holding one last storytime to close out the year. Join us December 14th through December 18th for stories, songs, and activities to put you and your little one in the holiday spirit. Partnership staff will hold the storytime at Smokey Bear Park on Thursday, December 16th at 10am. For more information, including times and locations for other branches, see the episode description for a link to our blog. Looking to keep your child entertained over the long holidays? Place a hold on one of ACLD’s STEM kits, courtesy of the Rotary Club of Gainesville. Each kit includes hands-on educational exploration of a STEM topic, with an interactive toy, book, and DVD on topics ranging from electricity to physics. Check out the full listing of kits at aclib.us/stem-kits!