Tigermountain Foundation

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Tigermountain CEO, Darren Chapman, talks about teaching the South Phoenix community and its youth the importance of sustainable farming.

Jose Cardenas: The Tiger mountain foundation is an organization that works on community garden projects in the Phoenix area. They teach youth and all ages of successful work ethic, farming, financial, and business skills. We will talk to the CEO of Tiger mountain foundation in a moment, but first here is what the foundation is all about.

Darren Chapman: Community gardens. Those words make people smile. Beautifully ordered, healthy plants, happy people. But there is another side to the story. You know, 10:30 in the morning, that phone rings. Hey, man, you said you were going to do this. I'm about to ignore the people trying to reach me, the email is piling up, grant deadlines. Wilting without water so that I can sit in a meeting to pause and reflect. Not easy. But you know what? New ideas came out because of it. Community building road is unbelievably long and winding. People can knock you down as much as they lift you up and it's usually hard to tell which person is which at first. One day you are -- the next you are deeply humble. But you say consistent, open, and engaged, and one day your work takes on a new face. Build a community garden or just build community. Either way, be in it for the people. Be in it for the long haul and take time to make time. The work never ends. Even the harvest is just another beginning. You see that clearly out here, but it's just as true anywhere else. Wherever you are in your work, don't stop. As far as I know, the universe is infinite. Keep reaching for the stars.

Jose Cardenas: Joining me now to talk more about this group is Darren Chapman, CEO and founder of Tiger mountain foundation. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." This is a fascinating project. Give us some of the history of the Tiger Mountain foundation.

Darren Chapman: Tiger Mountain foundation started because in the lower-income community that I grew up in, there was a need to look for opportunity, for work force development, to address some of the issues that were plaguing the community that I grew up in, such as the rapid drug use, the vacant fields. And so we came up with an idea to actually get fresh produce out into the community, and with this, an opportunity for people to gather and talk about some of their problems.

Jose Cardenas: Why the focus on farming as opposed to auto mechanics or some other type of activity?

Darren Chapman: Well, part of the disparity in the low income community is the fact that you have vacant fields, many vacant fields. And the vacant fields could be replaced by these community gardens that we wanted to put in place but also serve a purpose, such as a health disparity. Now you can have a component for healthy eating, active life-styles. Getting together for community camaraderie. If you were on one side of the track. Say if you were in a different type of gang, we can actually look for a component, a safe zone, per se, where people could come and meet and talk about their issues.

Jose Cardenas: As we have been talking, we have been running pictures on the screen of some of the fields that you all have worked in. I looked at some of the pictures on the internet. Some of these are lots that would otherwise be full of trash or debris from just neglect, and so it is somewhat of a beautification project as well.

Darren Chapman: Absolutely. You know, if your car is broken, you will go see an auto mechanic. If your neighborhood is broken, you are going to be in the midst of the problem. So, rather than having people maybe just specialize or go to a particular type of silo, we basically take those vacant fields and open the doors to anyone who is interested in building community, interested in building camaraderie and getting involved and engaged in bettering their city.

Jose Cardenas: How do people get involved?

Darren Chapman: Well, there is a few different ways that you can get involved with the Tiger Mountain foundation. We have every second and fourth Saturday a great opportunity for people to come down and volunteer. You can literally come down to our gardens. We have great food, excellent music, fantastic youth from the community doing a great job. And so that's one way to get involved. Literally just go to our web site or check out the -- send me an email with --

Jose Cardenas: We will put that up on the screen.

Darren Chapman: Fantastic. That is a great way to get involved with the Tiger Mountain foundation. There is quite a few different things going on with the nonprofit and we would love people to get involved with it.

Jose Cardenas: As I understand it, what you do is produce that is generated, you then sell it.

Darren Chapman: Absolutely.

Jose Cardenas: And people can make money off of this.

Darren Chapman: Sure, sure. We brought some of the kids with us today. They have been doing a fantastic day of taking the produce to the farmer's market. I would love to be able to mention their names, but I know our time is limited here. I have Jose and Anthony and some of the kids, Kevin, Jeremiah, and some of those guys with us today. I had to do that plug real quick. Those gentlemen, along with TYEL, gave us an opportunity to take the produce to the farmer's market. 50 people receive a financial incentive, and they are youth and they are adults from the community and seniors from the community. Intergenerational.

Jose Cardenas: They're learning not just farming, agricultural techniques, but financial responsibility.

Darren Chapman: Absolutely. Financial literacy one of the four tenants of the nonprofit organization. Pillars are the fact that we have work force development, financial literacy instruction, micro business enterprise, and substance abuse education, behavioral health substance abuse education.

Jose Cardenas: I know this got started in Los Angeles. How long have you been active in the Phoenix area?

Darren Chapman: We have been in the Phoenix area since 2007. We've had people receive financial incentives from the produce from the community gardens since 2007. We now currently have over 50 people who receive this financial incentive. And so since 2007, we've been moving forward.

Jose Cardenas: And we've only got about 30 seconds left. Moving forward means what, any special projects on the horizon?

Darren Chapman: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We have a new garden project, called the people's garden, that we're very proud of. We would love to expand our garden of tomorrow. We have been talking about that for a few years. Some of you councilmen out there and different people who might be able to assist the Tiger Mountain foundation, we would love for you to come see some of the budding projects at Tiger Mountain because we would love to expand on them and increase how many people we can serve.

Jose Cardenas: I know you have a lot of partners. We mentioned one of them off screen, Salt River project. On that note we have to end the interview. Thank you for joining us and talking about this fascinating project.

Darren Chapman: You got it.

Jose Cardenas: That is all for us tonight. I'm Jose Cardenas, have a good evening.

Darren Chapman:CEO, Tigermountain Foundation;

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