In 2015, a community got together to convert a piece of land into an urban farm. Six years later, the courtyard is a living part of the neighborhood. PHOENIX – On 19 hectares of undeveloped land there is an urban farm that offers its community a vital service: fresh food in the middle of a food desert. There are few grocery stores for those who live near 19th Avenue and Baseline Road. Except for a food city on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Southern Avenue, there are no shops for miles. The farmers market, held every Saturday morning, is a lifeline for the area’s residents looking for fresh food. Starting in 2015, community organizations have come together to transform the property into an urban farm called Spaces for Opportunity. Six years later, the farm is a living part of the quarter, offers educational opportunities, an economic engine for smallholders and a place where individual gardeners come together. The Education This Land Offers Across the street from VH Lassen Elementary School, Spaces of Opportunity works with the school to provide education and nutrition to students. Some of the food grown on the farm is brought to school to strengthen their culinary class and to stock their Healthy Roots Café, a restaurant run by students under the supervision of a master chef. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Healthy Roots Café has moved to the Spaces of Opportunity Farmer’s Market. Spaces of Opportunity houses an air-conditioned vertical growth space, the so-called high tunnel. The tunnel allows students to grow food on the farm all year round. “One thing we’re looking forward to is using this tunnel – about 3,000 square feet of growing space – as a field laboratory for the local students coming from different schools,” said Sowan Thai, co-director of the Orchard Learning Center and one the driving force behind Spaces for Opportunity. “It will give them a different perspective on growth. We have 19 hectares, which is pretty much open land. Being able to grow in a more controlled environment opens up a lot more opportunities. ”Agriculture Makes a Difference When Rodney Machokoto moved from Zimbabwe to America, his homeland was plagued by food insecurity. Machokoto met his wife while the two were working on a project to rebuild the country’s deteriorating waste management system. Machokoto is currently working on his PhD in community development and sees Spaces of Opportunity as a perfect example of what communities can do to tackle food insecurity. “Now not only is our obligation individually, but I know everyone else here, trying to bring families the best quality food, free of pesticides and chemicals, regardless of their income status,” Machokoto said. “So this is really an example that we hope can happen in other cities and even other countries.” Machokoto spent seven years apart from his current wife while studying at Arizona State University. Now the two are teaching their two little sons how they can make a difference by cultivating the land. “When our boys came, we wanted to teach them that we can have fun and at the same time make a contribution to society,” said Machokoto. Machokoto and his family estimate that they have approximately 200,000 pounds of fresh produce on his property in Spaces of Opportunity each season community; Organizations like Sprouts and others that really think about how we approach community health and wellbeing from the ground up, “said Lyndsey Waugh, executive director of Sprouts’ Healthy Communities Foundation. The Sprouts Healthy Community Foundation awarded Spaces of Opportunity US $ 100,000 – Dollars for an episode of Ellen so Ellen DeGeneres could throw her spotlight on the town farm. “Sprouts works with organizations across the country that are working to build a more equitable food system,” Waugh said. “So this looks like programs like this Spaces of Opportunity, which provide an entry point for communities to improve access to fresh, healthy produce, or it could mean working with elementary school students to help them understand where their food is coming from and have a good understanding to develop what healthy food is. ”Spaces for Opportunity is held every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm r a farmers market. Food grown by micro-farmers is sold in the market, which benefits both the community and the farmers.