Community Engagement: Knowledge Quest and Green Leaf
By: Fara Foster, Director of Communications & Community Engagement
Knowledge Quest has long been one of our valued and consistent community service partners. Since the second time we held our annual Day of Service, our teams have worked on projects such as painting classrooms, clearing lots and building raised garden beds.
The work we do with them is just preparation. They plant seeds that turn into bountiful, year-round harvest through their work to equip South Memphis youth to maximize their potential. Knowledge Quest offers a variety of programs, such as after-school tutoring and social programs, summer camps focused on athletics, arts and character building, and even parenting and financial stability courses for adults. Green Leaf, their organic urban farm, serves as the learning field where kids are educated about healthy food options, including how to grow and prepare them. Last winter, our teams helped build hoop houses and prep raised garden beds for the spring planting. In late April, Green Leaf students began harvesting several types of greens grown in those beds that are sold to such restaurants as Erling Jensen. Every Saturday, the harvested vegetables can be purchased at the Cooper-Young Farmer’s Market.
Another huge win for Knowledge Quest is a multi-year project to redevelop an abandoned apartment building next door to the gardens into a 10-unit dorm. The long-vacant building will see new life for students participating in “urban immersion learning.” In exchange for below-market rents, students from local colleges and universities will share their knowledge and skills in agriculture, education, counseling and business with students enrolled in the Knowledge Quest programs. The money raised by those rents will then be invested back in the farm.
Through every program, the ever-present foundation is relationships. While visiting with Rev. Marlon Foster, founder, and Director of Knowledge Quest, I got to watch him interact with neighbors. As we were talking near the gardens, a parade of cars drove past and every driver stopped so they could speak with him. One young man was a former KQ student, inquiring how early he could enroll his own son. Another was a neighbor, thanking Marlon for the Spring Fest hosted a few weeks prior. He also spent time with four young siblings who were new to the community. He found a point of interest with each child to entice them towards Knowledge Quest programs. Moreover, he took the child’s interest then planted a different kind of seed; the seed of hope.