Let's Get Growing

What if kids could learn where real food came from... by planting, nurturing and harvesting it themselves?

Photo of Rudi Bester
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

One day we stuck a carrot in the ground and all hell broke loose!

We evolved from planting memorial trees, to fruit trees, to food. Last year we created 20 urban farming projects in designated food deserts in Palm Beach County, FL. Most were for schools, special needs programs, at risk youth centers, and Boys & Girls Clubs. Today, more than 10,000 children 'touch' our urban farming projects, daily! Children have better access to hands-on learning, from seed to harvest, inspiring a future of healthy leaders.

We inspire healthier kids, and healthier communities too!

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • Middle Eastern or North African (for example: Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian)
  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

African-American resident, Canadian citizen, South African by birth, a global citizen!

Website

http://www.memorytrees.co

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Florida

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

West Palm Beach

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Florida

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Palm Beach County, FL: Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Wellington, Jupiter, Riviera Beach, Belle Glade, Greenacres
Martin County, FL: Stuart
Miami-Dade County, FL: North Miami Beach, Miami

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Many kids don't even know that french fries were potatoes... before they became french fries!
Our program includes the children and also their caregivers. In addition to hands-on gardening programs and the growing of fresh produce, Memory Trees offers monthly sessions of 'FRESH!' - a workshop that demonstrates healthy food preparation to the children and caregivers. FRESH! offers education linking the care and germination of seeds with growing and harvesting healthy food choices.

Nutrition, diet, health and activity... is the foundation of Let's Get Growing! Growing

The children actually are the future!

Memory Trees equips children with skills they require for future success, including 'teaching them to fish.'

We create better access to resources for health... while inspiring healthier children, and healthier communities.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • LGBTQ or non-binary individuals
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education

Year Founded

2011

Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

235 Students at the School for Autism have access to the community garden, weekly. Memory Trees helps the students to create products for sale, for fundraising purposes. Through this work, students learn vocational skills that will benefit them in adulthood.

Via the ongoing gardening activities, the students learn additional vocational skills (e.g. gardening) and better social skills (e.g. working in a team). Furthermore, students harvest fresh produce they had planted, nurtured and eventually harvested, to make soup (more vocational skills) during school hours.

Our programs strive for a holistic approach to teach and provide better access to resources for health. In the process, we inspire healthier children and communities.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Memory Trees completed 20 projects during the last year. These included 6 school gardens, 4 gardens at local community centers (after-school programs), 7 community food/education gardens for at-risk youth facilities for Palm Beach County, and urban farming projects for Boys & Girls Clubs, Special Needs Schools, and more.

Literally thousands of children interact with our urban farming and community garden projects daily. Each school has a student population of 800-1,000 students, and classes rotate through our garden projects. We deliver more than 1,000 lbs of fresh produce per community garden, annually.

The children eat what they've grown, experiencing better knowledge of diet, health and nutrition... and learning about better access to resources, for health.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $250k - $500k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We preach and practice financial sustainability!

At its most basic level, we teach people to plant a pineapple after eating one. Entrepreneurial teaching, using the same example; buy a pineapple, cut it up, eat some, sell the rest (cut chunks), and plant the top... generating 400% ROI and a future pineapple to harvest.

Micro capital required for freshly cut pineapple product: $30. Break-even: 2 pineapples. Profit: 3+ pineapples.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

We swim upstream! Well-funded NGOs (e.g. United Way) try to get as many eligible people as possible onto food stamps (or similar social benefit programs). We work to get people OFF these dependencies.

Our focus areas are: Education | Entrepreneurship | Food Donations| Social Change | Sustainable Food | Empowerment of Women | Public/Private Collaboration | Family Health | Microcapital | Self Sufficiency | Urban Farming

The above represents our solutions to poverty and its most awful symptom, hunger. That is why Memory Trees has Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Education, education, education!

Not the stuff they teach children in schools - that system is broken, ethically and intellectually bankrupt, and a relic from a century ago. Children need to be educated to learn, connect and understand that we do not need to spend money we don't have, to get college diplomas for jobs that no longer exist!

To this end, Memory Trees drives entrepreneurship through education, by making micro-capital available, by investing in small businesses, teaching self-sufficiency... and more! A healthy future depends on what we do today.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Other

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Program Design Clarity

We started small, learning to replicate and scale as our audience/projects grew larger, more complex:
a) Main beneficiary community: Gramercy Park, a lower-income area with 50% population aged under 19.
b) Deliverables include a computer lab, educational garden, children's play sets, and ongoing educational sessions; a holistic solution that attracts all ages.
c) Services are delivered at a lot with a church building, and two basketball courts.
d) 3 Employees and 20+ volunteers deliver the services and educational workshops.
This community revitalization project is our boldest, to date!

Community Leadership

At this stage we Design, Collect, Analyze and Dialogue. We have 271 online users of 'Nextdoor,' a free community web portal. We use Facebook groups to post and provide updates but because of the vast universe of FB users, 'follows and likes' are less valuable than e.g. surveys, one-on-one communication with beneficiaries, and interaction via Nextdoor. Community leaders actually manage and lead program delivery, creating unchallenged equity.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

Our starting objective was to create a model we could replicate and scale. We work closely with the County and NGOs to introduce connections and geographies where we can replicate our successful outcomes. Scaling is related to the size of a lot available for improvement, with or without current buildings. We utilize a 'train-the-trainer' methodology to replicate, allowing us access to areas where we would not be able to deliver, ourselves.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

One cannot focus on children's wellbeing while their parents are un- or under-employed, or unskilled. We created a model that draws all ages into an environment where the community experiences access to better resources for health, education, general fitness and wellbeing. When children plant and nurture food, they own it, eat it, and learn while doing it. We create jobs for the parents, and educational playtime opportunities for their children.

Leadership Story

The Bester family owns and manages Memory Trees, a public charity. Our CEO and Executive Director both work for the communities we serve at no direct cost to our beneficiaries, or the corporation. We believe that when an elevator has taken one to the top in terms of business success and/or experience, we are tasked with a responsibility to send it back down to uplift others.

Our inspiration stems from the sudden and unexpected loss of a dear young family friend. As a result, we created Memory Trees with a mission of "Giving Back Life... In Abundance."

Organization's Twitter Handle

@Memory_Trees
@rudibest

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

https://www.facebook.com/MemoryTrees501.c.3/

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rudibester

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 33.3%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 0%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 66.7%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 33.3%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 33.3%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 33.3%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 0%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 33.3%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 66.7%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 33.3%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 0%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 50%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

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Photo of Rudi Bester
Team

Hi Maud, thank you for your comments and feedback. Most of the work we do strives to disrupt a culture of dependency on social benefits, i.e. poverty at a macro level. Our grassroots efforts related to planting, nurturing and harvesting of food is dedicated to ongoing education of inner-city kids, with another macro objective... "better access to health."

Our micro loan program includes 'very small' to small business funding. Informally, we teach people to turn crafts into cash (sewing, crocheting, jewelry-making and basic food prep). For example, we can buy a pineapple at WalMart for $3. We can fill 4-5 small containers and sell fresh pineapple chunks for $3 per container, i.e. a ROI of $12-15 on a $3 investment. And... we can plant the pineapple top, growing more over time (at almost $0 cost). Equipment required includes a cutting board(s), knives, access to clean running water, and pineapples; maybe $50-100 all in. People see their wares at farmers and arts & crafts markets, and similar. In theory, anything they sell that represents a profitable return on their invested time, qualifies as success?!

But, we also make larger investments, e.g. providing startup cash to help launch a landscaping business. In this latter example, we used a micro loan of only $10,000 to create a business that employs 2 people semi-permanently (they still have jobs, but do the landscaping jobs after hours and on weekends). As they land larger landscaping projects, they hire part-time employees in their community at $8/hour, creating more opportunities for others, and business growth. This year we have helped three business to launch successfully; a nonprofit, a BBQ company and the landscaping one used as an example above.

At Memory Trees, we grow food. Whatever suits our target audience (taste, climate, etc.), and subject to seasonality.

Thank you for your interest in our work, and for taking the time to comment!

Rudi Bester, CEO
http://www.memorytrees.co

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