Collective Roots was founded by Holly Taylor, Amanda Feld, Adam Mitchell in 2000 at Belle Haven School in Menlo Park. There the young program focused on three initiatives: involving students and community members in the planting of multiple garden spaces; establishing a weekly after-school Garden Club that attracted students across multiple grade levels; and initiating a pilot program with ten teachers to begin integrating garden-centered learning into their curricula.
By June 2002, our Garden Club averaged more than 25 students per week; and two neglected courtyards were transformed into flourishing gardens through the hard work of our students, teachers, parents, and the community-at-large. The gardens became a source of pride in the neighborhood and provided an avenue for parents to become actively engaged in their children’s school.
A New School Partner
A leadership change at Belle Haven, coupled with cuts in district funding, prompted CRGP to seek a new community partner that would provide both the physical space and the support to grow and replicate the successful elements of our program, enabling us to serve more students. In January 2003, Collective Roots relocated to EPACS, a year-round public K-8 charter school committed to providing innovative learning opportunities and improving academic achievement. We realized that EPACS provided a fertile environment for Collective Roots’ growth – in terms of both its existing garden spaces as well as strong faculty support.
At EPACS, Collective Roots has developed a program with strong support from students, faculty, and community members. Our hands-on lessons in the garden teach students in grades K-8 about sustainable agriculture and nature, nutrition, science, math, and language arts. Collective Roots became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in June 2003.
The school garden at EPACS has grown to become a flagship garden approaching nearly an acre in size. The garden offers many exciting features including an outdoor kitchen, a giant green dome, a fruit orchard, solar power, a pond, vermiculture, composting, and more.
Collective Roots expanded in 2007 to include providing garden based learning at Willow Oaks Elementary School in Belle Haven, a Ravenswood City School District school located in a neighborhood of Menlo Park. In 2008 and early 2009, Collective Roots expanded afterschool programming to include the East Palo Alto-based 49ers Academy middle school and two local non-profits: Girls to Women and College Track. These afterschool programs include garden-based education and nutrition/cooking classes.
Fresh Food for All
Collective Roots also expanded its work in 2007 to include food systems change and support in starting and managing the East Palo Alto Community Farmers’ Market, Backyard Gardener Network and EPA Fresh Checks. In 2009, Collective Roots was awarded a multi-year grant from the California Department of Public Health to implement the Food System Change Roadshow, and interactive suite of activities that promote physical activity and healthy nutrition.
In 2010, Collective Roots formed a new partnership with Fresh Approach and Operation Frontline to bring free cooking classes to East Palo Alto.
With the support of an active Board of Directors and many community partners, Collective Roots is working to expand our impact to further our mission to educate and engage youth and communities in food system change through sustainable programs that impact health, education, and the environment.