The friendship of Lindsay Smith and Dina Feldman has quickly blossomed and borne fruit since they met this May: The two gardening and nature enthusiasts hit it off immediately, and for the last several months they have been busy formulating plans for Sowing Seeds of Change, a nonprofit agricultural education and vocational center for underserved and marginalized young adults.
“We will be serving individuals who have developmental disabilities and are aging out of school services,” explained Feldman. “We also seek to support foster youth 18 and older who are aging out of social services, with the intent of training them in agriculture or food sales-related occupations. We’re hoping to find a true passion for them, so we can increase their chances of being properly integrated into the community.”
Feldman, a board-certified behavior analyst who’s also the entrepreneur behind Feel-Good Salsa and the Feel-Good Salsa Kitchen, has pooled her talents with Smith, a special education teacher for the Long Beach Unified School District. “The garden is a place to take down barriers,” Smith said.
“We have strong connections in the food industry and urban agriculture,” continued Smith. “Sowing Seeds of Change is, among other things, a small business incubator, so we can help any young adults who have an interest in starting up an agriculture-related business, such as a farmer’s market stand or a home gardening service. We envision lots of micro-enterprises branching out from our organization.”
Aspiring young chefs can gain experience in Feldman’s “Feel-Good Salsa Kitchen,” a commercial kitchen space she owns where renters receive incentives for hiring and mentoring disadvantaged young adults. “It’s a built-in segue to a career path,” said Feldman.
Prospects for the Sowing Seeds of Change program will undergo a needs assessment survey, and an evaluation of their skill sets. “We want these young adults to get employment,” said Feldman. “The abilities and needs of these individuals will determine how long they remain in our program.”
Those who enroll with Sowing Seeds of Change at such a critical juncture in their lives can be sure of the genuine intent of its co-founders. “Gardening has always been a passion for me,” said Smith. “I have incorporated school gardens into my curriculum for the past nine years. There are so many therapeutic aspects to gardening.”
Feldman’s enthusiasm level mirrors Smith’s. “I started looking closely at my personal impact on the environment,” she said. “Also,I did a 30-day plant-based diet, and it felt amazing. The educational component became very important for me; I want people to feel better, treat the environment better, and I want to show them how.”
Sowing Seeds of Change has recently secured a fiscal sponsorship from the nonprofit Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE), which provides support with personnel, bookkeeping, and other administrative duties, freeing Smith and Feldman to concentrate on their programming and fundraising. They are intent on spreading the word about their center and are actively seeking new partnerships. “Our biggest need right now is gaining access to land,” said Feldman.
To help Smith and Feldman with their quest for land, Long Beach Fresh along with PlacemakingUS recruited a team of “placemakers” — urban design professionals dedicated to helping communities turn spaces into places. Erin Holsonback from Otten & Associates Landscape Architects in Portland, Tina Govan from Placemaking Studio Raleigh and Candice Ji from M-Group in the San Francisco bay area have been helping visualize and express the team’s vision as Smith and Feldman engage property owners and the City of Long Beach to find suitable parcels for this project.
To learn more about Sowing Seeds of Change and to help disadvantaged young adults gain a foothold in life, please visit https://www.sowingseedsofchange.org/.
Story and photos by Matt Cohn – Matt is a writer, musician, history buff, gardener, photographer, life-long Long Beachian, adventurer and bon vivant. He has written and produced great local content for the LBPost.com, City of Long Beach, Downtown Long Beach Alliance, 99.1 KLBP and other fine local publications and media.