School Gardens Are Vital: An Interview with Ehren Vance, FoodPrints’ Garden Manager
Ehren Vance joined the FoodPrints team in the fall of 2022. We interviewed him last month to learn more about him and spotlight the valuable work he does for the FRESHFARM FoodPrints.
As our new Garden Manager, Ehren Vance brings the combination of garden expertise with an enthusiasm for urban agriculture and education. He joined our team in August 2022, and in this role, he is responsible for managing our 19 school gardens, as well as supporting our teachers as they utilize their gardens to deliver joyful, hands-on experiences growing and harvesting food.
Looking for an enthusiastic garden expert whose understanding of urban agriculture could match their passion for education was not an easy task. Finding Ehren Vance ensured that FoodPrints could continue our mission of making school gardens a place of joyful growing and learning to life.
Educational Growing in the City
Ehren believes that gardens are an invaluable benefit not just for students, but for entire communities. With a predominantly self-taught vault of knowledge in urban agriculture, Ehren was inspired to begin a career focused on growing after a simple discovery made in his apartment.
Shortly after beginning to experiment with indoor growing, Ehren’s “ah-ha” gardening moment came after seeing his first five cherry tomatoes grow in the windowsill of his apartment. “It was small but it blew my mind! I wasn’t expecting much but it just lit a fire in me and I thought, I’m gonna start doing this now.” As a self proclaimed “city-kid” with a dream of owning a farm, those five cherry tomatoes ignited a drive to pivot his career towards urban gardening.
“We think of ourselves as apart from nature and not a part of nature,” said Ehren in our interview. This way of thinking is what brought him to FoodPrints. He’s passionate about bringing more greenery to urban areas, especially with the intention of making people and spaces healthier. And now, Ehren combines this passion with experience in youth education and gardening to enrich FoodPrints school gardens across DC.
Connecting Communities Through Food
Ehren believes that communities’ food sovereignty comes from educational opportunities in urban agriculture and creating more edible landscapes. “Even if kids are not inspired to go into an eco-focused career, just to have an understanding of the interconnectedness of this all is essential in order to have a greater concept of where our food comes from.” In this way, Ehren believes thriving gardens bring more direct connections between students and fresh produce.
The work Ehren does with FoodPrints – to sustain a healthy network of innovative gardens – aids our mission to build more positive connections between students and outdoor spaces where they can grow and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Ehren’s work is driven by a strong belief that we can positively impact students through opportunities to grow their own food. “Food is a human right – I believe that full stop – but especially culturally relevant and significant food. Easy access to culturally relevant food is important.” This idea directly connects with FoodPrints work to increase opportunities to grow and cook culturally relevant recipes with freshly grown foods in our schools.
Ehren has brought a wealth of knowledge and commitment to our organization and school communities. Through his work, he brightens the experiences of students across the city and keeps our school gardens beautiful and thriving.