Spotlight: Erin Beagle, Roots to Harvest

Erin Beagle is the Program Coordinator for Roots to Harvest (Urban Youth Garden) in Thunder Bay. Young people connect with mentors and experts in the community to explore food system from many different sides — production, distribution, access, culture, and sustainability. Their mission is to provide accessible, transformative and experiential opportunities for youth to engage with local agriculture; ultimately cultivating healthy communities.

This not-for-profit’s social enterprise produces and sells locally made products to help sustain the primary programming.

Check out her story below:

Q: What inspires you to do this work?

A: To see people and youth make connections. Inspiring youth to be a part of some really positive changes that are happening in the city around food, youth development and education.

Q: What is your motivation?

A: To make long lasting changes for youth and community, provide experiences that inspire youth to be involved and to cultivate spaces in the city that people can participate in that don’t have barriers for them to join.

Q: Who do you hope to impact and reach through your initiative? Why?

A: Our main goal is to include youth who face barriers to employment or academics. Those who might have social economic barriers, parents on social assistance or youth who have been involved in the youth justice system. And those youth who have not been identified as ‘successful.’ Those kids are fantastic and hard-working and they have a lot to say. That’s the heart of what we want to do.

Our main goal is to include youth who face barriers to employment or academics. Those who might have social economic barriers, parents on social assistance or youth who have been involved in the youth justice system.

Q: Would you consider your a social entrepreneur and why?

A: I consider myself to be a community capacity builder, but that’s if I were to put a title to my role. But increasingly the nature of our work, as a not for profit, is finding ways that will help sustain us and I feel like that helps us to become social entrepreneurs. For instance, we keep Bees. Bees have so many different purposes for our program but there’s an economic purpose too because we can go and sell that honey. And the youth are working and gaining so many skills from that experience.

I consider myself to be a community capacity builder.

Q: What barriers and challenges have you faced?

A: I think I would reiterate the skill sets needed in order to do the sustainable piece and in a good way. Business skills that would complement the social skills. We can do the outreach and create the ideas and we can see the gaps and the needs, but we are not always tuned into putting that into a business model that is a good fit. So that’s definitely a challenge and a barrier.

Q: How did you confront those challenges and barriers and what resources did you need? What resources do you need as you move forward?

A: As we move forward we need a community of people and/or organizations that are doing similar things, a community of learning and a sustainability plan. Ultimately I think that training would be wonderful for us, but in order to do that we also need time and a dedicated group of people to say ‘this is what I’m working on, this is my skill set.’ It’s kind of a dream.

As we move forward we need a community of people and/or organizations that are doing similar things, a community of learning and a sustainability plan.

Q: What would have made this process easier for you?

A: Training and education, and I really hate to say this, but money does make a difference. A business plan to help with accessing the market, identifying the need, making a plan to get it out there and looking at scale and timelines. Also looking at the financial piece and looking at investors, risk and those pieces for not for profits.

Q: Do you consider yourself as a mentor at this point?

A: On some levels, absolutely to kids and youth and other organizations that want to work with school boards. I feel like we are on the leading edge in that realm so I feel like we have a role to play with mentorship there too.

SEE considers you a mentor, Erin and we thank you for your inspirational story as a social innovator!

To find out more, visit www.rootstoharvest.org.


Originally published at www.seethechange.ca.