As we send students off into the next phase of their lives this graduation week, I can’t help but think about what it was like to grow up in Lakeland. Though it was wonderful to be a kid back then, we have come so very far. When I graduated from Kathleen High School in 1991, downtown Lakeland looked very different. Its renaissance was just beginning, and the change in our city over the last quarter-century has been nothing short of extraordinary.
So much of what we enjoy today is thanks to the tireless work of so many in our community who have strategically, intentionally both ministered to others and built a strong economic engine that drives the peace and thriving of our community. The Hebrew word for this thriving is “shalom”, which simply means “all things right”.
How might we create shalom in our city?
The RISE Institute at LCS teaches students to use “Design Thinking”, a model developed by Stanford University’s D.School. Design Thinking is focused on finding solutions to complex problems using creativity, intuition, iteration, and old fashioned common sense and grit. It’s the same mindset that has helped our city to do extraordinary things in the past and will continue into the future. We want our students to learn to be highly skilled problem finders and problem solvers.
In partnership with the City of Lakeland Community Redevelopment Association, Lakeland Christian School is building an Urban Farm at the Mass Market project in the Midtown Design District in Lakeland. Named for Everette Taylor, community leader and passionate gardener, the .33 acre site occupies the northeast corner of the Community Redevelopment Association’s Mass Market project. A block of the Midtown Design District has been transformed with the passion of creative entrepreneurs and the support of the CRA. The Urban Farm joins Haus 820, ArtiFacts, Repurposed Art, The Collective, and Your Pro Kitchen in a spot just south of Polk Property Appraiser Joe Tedder’s building.
The Urban Farm will give Pre-K through 12th grade students at LCS positive experiences with growing and tasting fresh fruits and vegetables in an art-integrated space. Through activities connecting science, art, history, and newer fields like design thinking and “making”, students will become investigators and problem solvers. In addition to current LCS students, a RISE Institute homeschool program will open opportunities to middle and high school students.
Students will grow crops in raised beds, and have been prototyping and learning in their student-run gardens at Lakeland Christian School for several years. Some of their favorite plants include amaranth, Aztec sweet (stevia), Everglades sweet tomatoes, green beans, heirloom kale, broccoli, sunflowers, and a wide variety of culinary herbs. High school students in RISE Institute Entrepreneurial Leadership and Experimental Science classes will use the farm as a learning lab through event planning and education, scientific research projects, and building community partnerships. Students throughout the school will benefit from field trips, service projects, and hands-on learning. LCS students will work with the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) and other local universities and colleges.
The Urban Farm will host field trips, farm dinners, chef tasting events, and special events for the community. Collaborations with other community groups are planned. Produce will be sold to make the Urban Farm sustainable and also distributed through partnerships with community organizations. Construction is scheduled to begin in June and conclude by the end of the summer. A fall opening is in the works.
Keep up with all the latest Urban Farm happenings on Facebook at Urban Farm at Mass Market- LCS RISE Institute. Want to help? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to buy fresh vegetables? Stay tuned. Want to be about the business of driving the thriving of our community, creating “shalom”? Roll up your sleeves and join us!