For the last five years, I have had a huge focus on education. Having wanted to be an educator since 16, all of my energy has been focused on this specific goal. My time in and out of the classroom in various roles, but most extensively science teaching, taught me many things about the system--it is not set up for the success of all students, most especially students of color, and there is a deeply inlayed disrespect for the profession of teaching, written into the low pay, and often, lack of support. Ultimately I learned that when it comes to what students need, its very individual and can't be prescribed by a single goal like "go to college." Grading in particular, is very limited in the way it helps students measure progress and success.
As my time progressed, I noticed that no matter what way I was spinning it, my instruction always led to what I believe has the power to inextricably bind us, food, nature, and sustainability. Along my journey of gathering the stories of students all over Oakland and the East Bay, I have learned so much about what supporting them really looks like: consistently showing up open hearted and grateful, cultural relevance, connection to family and community. However, somewhere along that journey, I lost track of just exactly it was that I loved about the work for myself. It was all about my students and the community I was driven to support, but I was starting to experience the burn-out and frustration with the systems I was working within.
In my last three years as an educator, I began running internships in a full scale farm to table program, as well as running the internship program as a whole, placing students in experiences that would help them refine their dreams and skills. During this time, with the help of student interns and community partners, I successfully designed, funded, and ran a small urban farm for several years, experiencing the seasonal shifts and learning that comes from a deep relationship with land and life. This time in my life has led me to believe that I can still do what I have a passion for in teaching, connecting closely with youth in a professional, rather than a classroom setting, and helping to impart skills and mindsets that can seed their sovereignty and support a healthy and sustainable future for them. The only massive change is that I want to do it on my own terms, and as an employer rather than an educator.
So this leads me to today. Another of my deepest desires it to help equip an urban landscape with the skills and spaces designed to feed, and most importantly, nourish, its peoples' bodies and souls. In the mindset of an educator, I not only gained the experiences and knowledge of how to design and maintain a garden space, I also know deeply how to impart that knowledge to many different kinds of people in consideration of their ancestral wisdom and cultural context. I also taught about agriculture from a mass scale in the context of a changing climate and sustainability practices, so my work has led me to research and experiment with hydroponics and aquaponics (my bachelors degree was in aquatic biology) as well as many other forms of vertical and small space farming.
Beyond all of this juicy experience and knowledge I have to offer, gardening is in my English blood. Both of my grandmothers, and indeed, my mother, were natural gardeners. I have endearing memories of the incredible, edible landscapes my grandma Anne would craft, rooting up potatoes for our dinner that evening. I have a natural way with nature and would love to help everyone feel that natural connection. I also happen to be partnered with an amazing Oakland native maker educator, Jeadi Vilchis from Neologix Labs, so I have access to some of the most innovative inventors and makers and fabrication labs around the East Bay and beyond. This allows me to customize and create whatever you may need.
So this all guides me to my official offering. What is it exactly that Sustain With Me can do for you or your family? I have found many of my close friends struggling to describe it, and this is likely because up until right now, it hasn't been crystal clear to myself what direction this business was going. So here it is!
I am excited to share my consultancy expertise with you on your wildest garden dreams--be it to equip your balcony with a vertical garden, green your restaurant wall with fresh culinary herbs, or start your homestead with permaculture practices and sustainability in mind. Once we have the vision in hand, I will provide you with a quote for materials and time, and we can get on the path to installing your vision. Each summer, and perhaps during the school year, recruit depending, I will employ youth interns from Oakland to support in the labor, as well as learn about the skills I use to complete this work. Your investment in my business with support not only the growth of my budding women-owned business, but the development of youth in our community. This is a way I want to continue to support the community I love so much. In the effort to further enhance sustainability practices, I will also be supporting women and POC owned establishments for my purchases of plants, materials, and labor.
So, with that, you will be hearing from me some more, but now it will be the gardening experiences and advice I am filled to the brim with. I can't wait to share my own journey of installing my vertical edible landscape on my home balcony in Alameda. My partner and I have over 200 houseplants (another area I am very knowledgeable about) and just happen to have some beautiful sunshine coming at us from our beach view. Though our balcony isn't massive, I have grandiose plans of the food we will produce out there. Coming soon, I invite you to check out my custom balcony greenhouse where I have started all our recruits for the spring, and have room to spare for breeding some babies for you too!