After noticing a lack of fresh produce at his school in Bethesda, Maryland in 2016, Chander Payne, 18, connected his school food pantry with a local rooftop farm and began delivering 20 pounds of fresh produce to the pantry each week. That summer, he fell in love with regenerative agriculture and returned to school with a mission to use the practice to help marginalized youth grow food. He founded Urban Beet farm in his high school’s courtyard and invited young people from the Washington DC–based Homeless Children’s Playtime Project to grow and harvest vegetables there. Chander’s team then began partnering with a local restaurant, True Food Kitchen, to provide 20 children with delicious farm-fresh meals.
Over the past two years, Urban Beet has provided 2,500 pounds of produce to underserved families and people experiencing homelessness, and it has begun to replicate its work at other schools across the country. During the pandemic, the organization also created and donated 200 Free Little Farms — windowsill planters complete with soil, seeds, and a note of support.