Changing the Way Communities Eat and Learn
Where and When Did We Plant Our Roots?
Our story started in 2009 when our founder began using gardening as a vehicle for S.T.E.A.M. education, environmental stewardship and nutrition. Not long after, Urban Roots partnered with teachers in the Washoe County School District to teach a wide variety of subjects using gardens and an outdoor learning environment. It quickly became clear to everyone involved that gardening education was perfect for stimulating creativity and learning.
Three short years later, the Urban Roots teaching farm and outdoor learning center sprouted in west Reno. Our team turned an old karaoke bar motel into a bustling farm complete with gardens, bees, pigs, chickens and energetic minds. The teaching farm introduced new programming that allowed kids to explore seasonal day camps, farm field trips, homeschool enrichment programs, and continuing education for K-12 teachers.
Through a partnership with Renown hospital in 2017, we officially planted our roots at our Urban Teaching Farm located at 1700 E. Second Street. Using the new space, we started cultivating year-round, nutrient dense produce in our three 30’ x 72’ high tunnels. It was a genuine pleasure to welcome kids and parents into our oasis designed for outdoor learning.
March 2020 marked a difficult period for Urban Roots and fellow nonprofits. To protect the safety of our staff and campers, we shifted in-person programming to distance learning. Additionally, we placed our staff on furlough status until funds from our in-person programs could resume. Through this period of great uncertainty, we persevered by listening to the needs of our community!
Without our incredible day camps and homeschool enrichment programs, families throughout our region were looking for ways to enjoy outdoor learning activities and garden-based fun. We recognized the void that stay-at-home mandates created, so we initiated the Urban Roots at Home and Indoor Gardening Kit programs. These programs allowed families to continue exploring the natural world from the comfort of their apartments, homes, back yards and windows.
What’s Currently Blossoming at Urban Roots?
Since our inception, our mission was to change the way that kids eat and learn through garden-based education. After years of our community seeing how much fun our campers have at the farm, they called on us to begin creating programming for more age groups.
In August of 2021, we announced that we would begin offering seed-to-table programming designed for the entire community! We are pioneering programs that cater to preschool kids, elementary and middle school kids, adults and seniors.
Community members struggling to cultivate their green thumbs will love the Dead Plant Society - a workshop series we designed for novice gardeners.
With the help of sponsors and generous donors, we’re pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting community events at the farm each season of the year!
Through our Gardening for All program, we’re bringing our technical knowledge and expertise into the world of garden building. Businesses, private residences, schools and nonprofits can now hire Urban Roots to design and build gardens for them. The best part is that we offer continuing education to maintain each garden!
A Legacy and Continued
Tradition of Powerful Women
Since the beginning of Urban Roots, our nonprofit has often been led by women. The majority of our leadership positions have historically been held by women, and we’re continuing that tradition, but with a twist.
Since October 2021, Jenny Angius and Sydney Callahan have informally been leading Urban Roots. These two phenomenal leaders have a combined 15 years of experience with the org.
In January 2022, the Urban Roots board of directors unanimously voted to install a shared leadership model for the organization. What does that mean? Urban Roots now has two executive directors, Jenny and Sydney! Each executive director now has the opportunity to lean into her respective strengths while leaving plenty of room for collaborative decision making.
Jenny is now the Executive Director of Operations and Development. Jenny is responsible for all of our systems and processes related to fundraising for our industry-leading programs.
Sydney is now the Executive Director of Programs and Staff. Sydney is responsible for the development and implementation of all of our programming as well as hiring and mentoring our amazing staff.
What Seeds Are We Sowing for the Future?
The events of 2020 and 2021 taught us that we can grow and adapt to any scenario! We’ve grown into our larger role of changing the way that communities eat and learn through garden-based education.
We are deeply proud to share that we are now enhancing ALL of our programs with components in equity and nutrition.
Our modular teaching kitchen will debut soon, and we’ll be offering cooking classes, workshops and seed-to-table education in a social environment.
Friends and families have been enjoying our Urban Teaching Farm for years. We’re excited to expand on these opportunities for everyone to enjoy the farm. Soon we will be offering members of our Farm-ily the opportunity to use our space to throw farm-approved events!
Please read about the amazing impact we made in 2022 here.