Kids who sling kale eat kale: Launch 5 School Garden CSA's in LA's Food Deserts

submission by schoolgarden

Organization Name


Muir Ranch




Please select the one indicator that is most relevant to your project or organization: Education

What is your idea and how will it impact your indicator?


Let us give kids jobs this summer growing and selling vegetables at 5 sites throughout Los Angeles. Let us finance their would-be produce empires with a replicable model that gives their non-profit partners or even "just classroom teachers" the means to enable young eaters to engage in the business of #food.

We can expand our current program model of urban school garden and rural farm partnership and create Muir Ranch Community Supported Agriculture satellites (CSA) that insert really amazing food into high need communities at the same time provide opportunities for non-profits with the energy and vision to be social entrepreneurs.

We work with farmers and their California abundance to provide really awesome food from the Santa Monica and Hollywood Farmers Markets.


We are a growing teen jobs program that looks like a 2 acre school farm, CSA vegetable social enterprise and catering start up. We have nearly 200 customers, 50 of whom are low income and fully subsidized via a Pasadena Children's Health Foundation grant, that receive the same weekly veg. box as our retail clients.

Our model gives our students at Muir High School the opportunity to run a business. We spend little time as "nutrition educators" preaching about the value of kale, kohlrabi and persimmons. But if the kids want to be successful business people they have to know their "product," so they eat it. No drama. No fuss. If you want to work here, eat kale. Michelle Obama would be so proud.

We started our program, not unlike Steve Jobs and that other Steve in a garage, with a vision and just ourselves as customers. Last year one teacher, then a neighbor and then a parent signed up. We had 20 customers our first month. With just under 200 customers currently we spend $6,000 a month on our produce, money for farmers, and we gross $12-15,000 per month from our client base. Everyone eats. Everyone. And our $30 weekly box is 50% tax-deductible.

Our vegetable subscription box is a better choice for our students, 90% of whom are on "free and reduced" school lunches and food stamps, SNAP. According to the Social Justice Learning Institute, LA families only spend 1-2% of their federal benefit on fresh fruits and vegetables, i.e. healthy food. Unacceptable. Horrible. And if you are Dr. Jonathon Fielding of LA County Health you can predict the billion dollar health economic impacts of diet on LA in 2050. Obesity, diabetes, hyper-tension, let alone the self-esteem and physical suffering associated with junk food, fast food and all things "flaming hot."

Couple that with the teen unemployment rate in NW Pasadena, Boyle Hts, Crenshaw, Sylmar and Inglewood you can paint a bleak picture. While we are a teaching program with at-risk, low income and other challenged youth and it is about process, we do, however, PRODUCE. As my students say, "it's expensive being a teenager, Mr. Mud." A simple paycheck is a game changer for my kids, 90% of whom who have never received one before. The simple dignity of having a phone is something that motivates my kids like no other.

We deliver our CSA to the City of Pasadena Health Dept, City Hall and the school district headquarters. We host open houses on Mondays for our school site pick up. Just having the students meet the customers, take checks, and provide customer service is a game changer. And the clients? They get kale.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?


My students have iPods and don't wear county ankle bracelets any more.

Alondra, Jacqui, Perla and Lali, all 15-18 year-old students, help manage a 6-figure start up: schedule, distribution and payroll.

They steal all the customers champagne grapes during the season. The business part of me cringes. The teacher says, "go ahead, eat them. they're good for you and the customers don't know they were in the CSA anyway."

My kids know how to grow a "green zebra" tomato.

We won this year's "Green Curriculum" award from the Green School Summit. We don't have an actual curriculum. We do have an actual business. As an employer what matters to you???

Not a single case of food-born illness to date. Knock wood. Clean hands.

We haven't missed a single CSA distribution since launch. Consistency.

50 Low-income families receive free CSA boxes thanks to the Pasadena Children's Health Foundation. The wait list for other familes is 2-3 times this.

We have been approved by the USDA for SNAP electronic payments.

We host the LA County Master Gardeners, the largest food justice group in Los Angeles, as of this year. The LA County Master Food Preservers are not far behind.

Amongst Whole Foods' Whole Kids Foundation's 2,000 plus school garden grantees our grant was 5 times the average amount and the only one given in the country as a social enterprise business. The kids are invited to Austin, Texas in 2014 for the national corporate meeting.

We've brought on chef Ernie Miller of the Hollywood Farmers' Market to teach in our semi-endowed "Julia Child Culinary Chair" as the kids learn to cook chard, kale, lentils and shiso. Yes, shiso.

Our second long table dinner at Muir Ranch with chef Matthew Poley of Heirloom LA in April 14. Come eat.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.


Whole Foods Market
Tutti Frutti Farm
McGrath Family Farm
Burkart Organiks
Plug Connection
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Seeds of Change
South Central Farm
Everson Royce
Silverlake Wine
Heirloom LA
Athens Services
Thank You For Coming

Gov and NonProf:

Pasadena City Health Dept
Pasadena Unified Facilities Division
Pasadena Garden Club
LA County Health Dept
LA Food Policy Council
Hollywood Farmers Market, SEE LA
LA County Master Gardener Program
LA County Master Food Preserver Program
California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers
Metabolic Studio
Honey Love

Current Satelites:
Social Justice Learning Institute, Inglewood
Aveson Charter School, Pasadena/Altadena
Whittier Backyard Farms, Whittier

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?



Within a year we will have obvious successful models and ones that need improvement amongst our 5 new partner sites. IF the satellites can build customers and secure additional funding they will grow. Their financials will paint a picture of the economics. How many jobs? How many customers? Is it sustainable?


What is the cost of "being healthy." What is the cost of not? We can call on our Health Dept partners to measure in avery "epidemiological" way the effects of the CSA on the students, staff, and community.


Kale or asphalt?

How will your project benefit Los Angeles? Please be specific.

Provide low-income teens jobs, work experience, socent exposure and fresh, organic veg.

Weigh the students, measure health impact

Bootstrap would-be school-garden based produce non-profit companies and teachers with an executable economic model

Insert fresh, organic produce into "food deserts."

Support urban/rural farm partnerships in California

Identity best practices in the school garden/rural farm CSA model

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?


Currently, there are 5,000 acres of asphalt in LA Unified School District campuses. If we are do be more sustainable, half of that amount could be fruit trees with their shade and apples or gardens with kale.

The students we teach now will be in their mid-fifties by then. If they develop an awareness of the natural world and the importance of diet we'll only be in a better world for it.

10 Pink-talk-bubble-tail

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Your program looks amazing! As an elementary school teacher I witness, everyday, the effects of unhealthy eating in my students. Many children come to class without eating breakfast or else they eat only a sugary treat. They have difficulty concentrating, learning and being happy, connected children. Many times, I provide a healthy snack of nuts, apples or cheese for them and I always witness a positive change, after their bodies are nourished in a healthy manner. I believe like you that school gardens CAN be a big part of every campus!!! Thanks for making a difference in these children's lives.

by carole.morrison.779
over 2 years ago | Reply


by Havish
almost 3 years ago | Reply


by alvarob87
almost 3 years ago | Reply

You got my vote!

by Picklesandkimchi
almost 3 years ago | Reply

this is a fantastic model program! mud and doss, you have done an amazing job! good luck!

by pattykestin
almost 3 years ago | Reply

oops hope you win those funds

by mswhizz
almost 3 years ago | Reply

hope you wun

by mswhizz
almost 3 years ago | Reply

Big supporters here!

by lorinscott1
almost 3 years ago | Reply

Rooting for you guys!

by mommacuisine
almost 3 years ago | Reply

You never disappoint Mud! You got my vote.

by Jayyhoward
almost 3 years ago | Reply

$1,000,000 in total grants
Circle-1-inactive Step1-title-submission-inactive

Submission Began
Tuesday, February 26

Submission Ended
Thursday, March 28
at 12:00 PM PDT

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Voting Began
Tuesday, April 02

Voting Ended
Wednesday, April 17
at 12:00 PM PDT

Circle-3 Step3-title
Homeboy Industries: Hope Has An Address
Homeboy Industries: Hope Has An Address

Winner Announced
Wednesday, May 08

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