|Mario and Keierra Callaway|
Mario and Keierra were Groundswell trainees in 2011’s New Farmer Training Program, and returned in 2012 to teach our “Community Ecology: Understanding your Social Context” for our Sustainable Farming Certificate Program.
Keierra and Mario Callaway both grew up in rural Georgia, surrounded by farms and/or gardens, and both have a family history of farming. Keierra, now 26, remembers taking trips to the farmer’s market with her grandmother. Her aunt still has a farm in Georgia where she grows collard greens, turnips, squash, and tomatoes.
But the Callaways left their rural roots behind to become urban agriculturists. In 2010 they launched the Kwanzaa Village Garden, a vibrant community garden located on the Southwest side of Syracuse. Their brainchild Urban Verde, an environmentally and socially conscious company, offers gardening products designed to make growing accessible to everyone. The next year, seeking to broaden and deepen their knowledge of agricultural practices, they enrolled in Groundswell’s New Farmer Training Program and regularly made the hour-plus commute down to our training sessions. Through Groundswell, the Callaways met many like minded people, aspiring farmers with diverse backgrounds who were able to learn from each other. They also kept in touch with some instructors well after the program ended. Groundswell’s Community Liaison, Katrina Baxter, aided them in the community development aspect of their mission.
Kwaanza Village Garden in Syracuse, a dynamic community garden spearheaded by the Callaways.
Since participating in Groundswell’s program, Keierra and Mario have moved from Syracuse to Brooklyn, where they are pursuing their life-long mission to bring sustainability and healthy food to those areas where it is lacking. Mario is working at Brooklyn Grange Urban Rooftop Farms, and both are working with a community garden in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, helping with organizational development and getting the community involved.