The Teens Behind Urban BEET are Creating Regenerative Farms to Fight Hunger
Change was necessary. After looking at the empty refrigerator in his high school’s cafeteria, Payne, a sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland, became aware of the sharp food inequality that existed in his community. Some of his classmates’ only access to vegetables were the French fries served in the cafeteria lunches. So, Payne founded Urban BEET.
Urban BEET connects urban communities with their soil. Payne created a partnership between a local rooftop farm and his school’s food pantry and was quickly able to provide 20 pounds of fresh produce each week to families in need
The following summer, Payne built vegetable gardens around Washington D.C. for a local company called Love and Carrots. He learned about gardening and regenerative agriculture, a set of farming techniques that builds healthy soil in order to sequester carbon into the ground. Payne took this newfound knowledge and set a new goal for the upcoming school year: to help marginalized young people grow food regeneratively.
His vision turned into a thriving regenerative urban farm in the courtyard of his high school. Payne and his team, The Avengers of Urban Farming, host community work days filled with yoga, healing and education about the regenerative properties of soil. The original school farm has grown from one single raised bed to 200 square feet, with an additional solar-powered farm. The team is now building new farms across Washington D.C., Maryland and Delaware. Since its inception, Urban BEET, an incorporated LLC, has raised over $4,000 in donations and donated 2,500 pounds of produce.
A natural introvert and the winner of the 2020 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, Payne said he’s now a lot more open since starting this mission. “The love for the soil, nourished by my experiences, is the reason why my initial intention to fight food deserts through produce deliveries has transformed into a project that connects people with their environment and each other,” he said. “It’s also taught me the beauty of courageous openness and communicating with others.”
Urban Beet has also spawned interest among other students: The team currently includes 12 others including Payne’s sister Devi, the marketing director and his dog, Santa, listed on the website as the “dirt manager.”
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