CULTIVATING TRADITION 8 | 1 |16
by Anna Marie Zorn
This summer, the Teens and Kids (3rd, 4th and 5th Grade Mentees) are carrying on a little-known piece of Milwaukee history. They are growing produce for a local neighborhood in the tradition of Fred Prather, a Milwaukee native with a green thumb who had a passion both for gardening and for helping others. In the early 1960s, before Lena’s grocery was a chain, Fred would sell the produce he grew to the small, up-and-coming grocery stand. Says Fred Jr., the son of Fred, “My dad played a big role in helping Lena’s feed the city.” Fred Sr. toiled over this garden until he was in his 90s and simply could not keep it going anymore. “That garden just lay there waiting, nobody touched it since Daddy died,” says Fred Jr.
Until three years ago. Slowly but surely the Teens and now Kids have grown food in Fred’s Garden and are carrying on both the tradition of hard work that Fred put in as well as the spirit with which Fred worked. Fred’s neighbors knew they only had to ask, and Fred would supply them with any fresh produce they needed. He never had a problem with theft because he put the community first. In that same vein, the Teens are growing vegetables to continue what was both his mission and his delight. The Teens teach the Kids how to maintain the garden and then how to sell the homegrown produce at a local garden stand to the neighborhood. Any money made is distributed to the Kids who sold the produce. We see the tradition of Fred's Garden growing not only food but their entrepreneurial skill set.
What would Fred think of all this? Well, both Fred. Jr and his sister are keeping an eye on the progress, and the feedback is nothing but positive. “Daddy is probably smiling in his grave,” says Fred. Jr.,” Everything looks great.”
Anna Maria Zorn writes for Teens Grow Greens, which is a "skill-building employment program fostering the growth of healthy, productive leaders." According to their website, "during a nine-month paid internship, Teenagers develop skills through hands-on experience in responsibility, healthy living, leadership, and entrepreneurship. "
Graduates of Teens Grow Greens create a portfolio that helps them toward job acceptance:
• Accomplished goals (supported by visual and written evidence)
• Completed resume with work experience and supportive references
• An active savings account