20 Years in the Making: Trellis for Tomorrow turns 20!

20 Years in the Making: Trellis for Tomorrow turns 20!

Introduction by Clemens Pietzner, founder of Triskeles Foundation (later Trellis for Tomorrow)

“As the founder of Triskeles Foundation, I was inspired to help build an organization that was about bridge building between ages, mindsets, backgrounds, and a broad range of learning and working opportunities—especially with and for youth, which could lead to pathways forward for individuals and their communities.

The organization’s youth programs began in 2002 and were based on a few simple but powerful guiding principles that hold true today:

  • Young people can and often do offer a great deal to and for their communities.
  • The world is complex and can be confusing; experiential learning can provide a path forward for young people in terms of skill acquisition; growth and self- development.
  • Access to, growing and understanding healthy food and food systems is a central building block to healthy individuals and communities.
  • Access to working/learning opportunities and exposure to positive mentors and service- to self, family, and community in a context of co-creating a better world for all, can provide inspiration and motivation.
  • Positive change is possible—in smaller and bigger ways.

Twenty years later, our world has changed, but I know that many, many young people, and their communities, have been and continue to be touched by these principles while participating in Trellis programs.  The testimony to Trellis’ success are the positive legacies and changes they, their families and communities, in turn, have experienced.

Being “of service, or in service” to others is a long-term journey and ever-changing experiment of social, financial, and relational realities combined with imagination, grit, determination, and joy. Trellis for Tomorrow continues to be on that journey!”

What inspired you to get involved with Trellis for Tomorrow?

Ray Schneider former Board President 2010-2021 | From the beginning I was drawn to Triskeles/Trellis because of a most unique approach to achieving a mission that was multidimensional — bringing young people into a close relationship with their innate capabilities, their health, and the health of their communities.  Over the years the organization has refined its programs and dramatically improved its ability to make positive change at both the individual and community level.  Seeing the impact on so many young lives, helping them reach their full potential, has been heartwarming and often tear inducing!

Tessa Henry former Youth Participant, current Board Member 2004-Present | In high school, I became increasingly interested in food and hunger issues. One of my teachers and mentors at the time encouraged me to seek a volunteer opportunity with Trellis. Immediately, I was impressed by their commitment to local gardens, healthy food, and providing professional development opportunities for youth in the Montgomery and Chester County areas. I was initially inspired by the leadership of the organization. Their vision and passion for fostering community gardens since 2003 was exciting. Twenty years later, the organization’s leadership continues to inspire me and the communities it serves. Last year, more than 600 volunteers dedicated their time in a local garden. This is a testament to Trellis’ dedication and extraordinary staff.  I am so grateful for their support, learning opportunities, and care that I proudly serve as one of their Board members today.

What was the field of gardening education like when you first got involved/started working with us?

Mark Birdsall Director of Youth Programs 2004-2016 | There wasn’t much of it. Federation of Neighborhood Centers, in Philly, had one program started about the same time as FFT and similar, but not much else.

What was your biggest “lesson learned” during your time with Trellis for Tomorrow?

Mark Birdsall Director of Youth Programs 2004-2016 Perhaps twofold: First, if you give young people truly real experiences, ones that are addressing the changes needed in the world, and if you connect them with adults passionate about their own work as part of this experience, then magic happens. Second, hire people to work with you who share as much of your passion and vision as possible, and then leave them as free as possible, including them in decision making and supporting them when they need it.

Tell us about one of your “firsts” during your time with Trellis for Tomorrow.

Mark Birdsall Director of Youth Programs 2004-2016 | I was interviewed on WHYY radio by Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden. He had heard about our Food for All program and invited me to talk about it and (Triskeles Programs) Trellis. Mike was a very good interviewer and we clicked, and I got to talk about FFA and many other things we were doing to a national audience on NPR. That was the first time I was on national radio!

What is one of your favorite memories from your time with us?

Ray Schneider Board President 2010-2021 | Some years ago during a Triskeles staff and Board dinner, we were discussing our programs, their effectiveness and future.  Right in the middle of our conversation, out of nowhere, our waitress interrupted and asked, “are you all from Triskeles?”  We all turned, nodded, and said yes.  At which point, on the verge of tears, she began to tell us that her son was a “graduate” of our summer program and described how the program had literally changed his life and maybe even saved it, because he wasn’t on a good path prior to his involvement with Triskeles.  Of course, the staff remembered her son and had all good things to say about him.  Well, that just about brought us all to tears – happy tears.

What do you like most about the culture of Trellis for Tomorrow?

Mark Birdsall Director of Youth Programs 2004-2016 | We’re an organization where we value each other’s strengths, support each other where they need support, and put our work for young people first.

How do we stand out from other organizations?

Ray Schneider Board President 2010-2021 | I believe that Trellis programs are uniquely positioned to answer the call so many

communities are making — help us to help our young people make better life choices and help us to help our community members live healthier lives.

Tessa Henry former Youth Participant, current Board Member 2004-Present |I first joined the organization as a youth participant in 2004.  Their youth programs taught me about sustainability, the significance of a healthy diet, and most importantly, what it means to be an active and engaged member of your community.  At the age of 17, I acquired new skills which became extremely valuable when I started my career as a young adult.  I honed my leadership skills through my time as an honorary member of their board when I was in high school.  I learned to empathize and strengthened my social skills when volunteering in community gardens and speaking on behalf of the organization to local businesses.

I use these skills every day in my work as a U.S. Diplomat overseas.  Being a public servant requires empathy and a passion to drive change.  Much of my desire to serve stemmed from my first interactions at Trellis.  I am a proud example of the steadfast commitment this organization has to the youth that it serves.  Their mission inspired me, their programs tapped my potential as a leader, and their impact today keeps me engaged as a volunteer in 2023.  Trellis is unique because their programs have a long-lasting impact for young adults.  Youth participants in Trellis are not only learning about food and healthy lifestyles, but they also go on to THRIVE and be successful in their future endeavors.

Do you have any advice for up-and-coming board members?

Ray Schneider Board President 2010-2021 | Future Board members should understand that being a part of the Trellis family means that your voice is important and the skills, experiences, and energy you bring are valued.  So don’t join if your goal is to just have a neat sounding non-profit on your resume.

Tessa Henry former Youth Participant, current Board Member 2004-Present | Be present.  We are often overwhelmed with our family and career obligations.  However, when you can engage Trellis as a participant, employee, or board member please remember that this organization really values your time.  Your contributions and skills really matter, and they will help this organization grow.  We want to hear your thoughts and ideas.  Being fully engaged is critical.

Gardeners: Get Ready for Spring!

Gardeners: Get Ready for Spring!

This is an exciting time of year for many gardeners; spring is in the air, the ephemeral plants like daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses are all starting to bloom. Trellis is ready to jump into another exciting season of growing with you, but first there are a couple steps to take. In order to prepare your garden (and you!) for the spring, here are some tips and tricks that will help as we begin the growing season.  

Step 1: Spring Cleaning! 

Trellis youth mulching 

  • The first step is to do a bit of spring cleaning. Remove any weeds, plants, old crop debris etc. from your growing beds. Make sure that no pest critters have been overwintering in old crops, or dead plants.   
  • If you have used a mulch in your garden, like leaves or compost, these can be left in place. If the layer of leaves is more than a couple inches thick still, take some of these off (reduce to ~1 inch of cover) and put them into the compost or anywhere that could use some extra. This layer will stay in place even through planting – more on that soon!  
  • Spring cleaning isn’t restricted to our gardens or our storage spaces – it’s also a good opportunity to clear the clutter and debris that have accumulated in our minds, hearts, and spirits – our interior garden space. Let go of past failures or disappointments, pull the weeds of complaint and bitterness, make space for something new to grow in your life, and in you! 


Step 2: Cultivation Leads to Growth 

Food for All gardeners cultivating 

  • If your soil has been uncovered all winter, it can become compacted, cracked and damaged. You may consider cultivating the top 1-2 inches of the soil to loosen the surface and allow for water infiltration. This also makes direct sowing and planting seedlings much easier. Damaged soils can also be improved by adding organic matter, like compost.  
  • A healthy garden can grow more than fruits, vegetables, and flowers – it’s also a place where community can grow too. As we emerge from the winter and a period of social distancing, your garden can be a place for people to come together and grow in new ways. Cultivate community by extending invitations and making sure others know they are welcome and have something to offer, even if they aren’t avid gardeners! 


Step 3: Make Sure the Water is Flowing 

New gardeners & energy bring your kids to work day at SAP America – Garden Olympics Compost Toss 

  • Before the planting, make sure the water to your garden is turned on and accessible. If you have one of our recommended drip-tape irrigation systems, do your best to assemble the components and test it if you are able (we can help as needed when the time comes)  
  • Water isn’t the only thing that flows into a garden – new people and new energy can flow there too. Make sure nothing is blocking that from happening, and work out any kinks you find.  


Step 4: Get Organized! 

Dornsife gardeners organized for action 

  • Gather, sort and organize any other materials that you may have on hand- like row cover fabric, hoops, staples, stakes, twine, tools, fertilizers, etc. Getting an idea of what supplies you have will help you plan for the rest of the season. 
  • As you also assemble fellow gardeners green or seasoned, with faces new or familiar, do the work of getting organized, getting on the same page, and getting excited to grow in new ways. If you need some help, ask us about the Trellis Community Building Playbook. 
Three Cheers to Ray!

Three Cheers to Ray!

As 2021 draws to a close, we would like to take a moment to appropriately appreciate and honor our dear friend, leader, and supporter, Raymond Schneider. Since 2009, Ray served as the president of the Trellis for Tomorrow Board of Directors, effectively stewarding the organization through 13 years of wonderful, and challenging, twists, turns, and transitions.

Even though 2021 was Ray’s final year on the board, we will forever be grateful for his longtime dedication to the mission of Trellis. From visiting the youth in the gardens, to leading the planning of several large fundraising events, to lending his photography skills to take headshots, Ray has been an integral part of our organization in an incredibly wide variety of ways throughout his tenure.

Ray described his favorite part of serving on the Trellis board saying, “I love the people at Trellis. Their passion for the mission serves as a benchmark for the rest of us as we think about how to make a difference in this crazy world we live in. And of course, the fact that Trellis is making such a significant impact on the lives of so many is the primary reason why we’re all in it together!”.

Trellis Executive Director, Jennifer Anderson, expressed some of the many things she appreciated most about her partnership with Ray. “What was best for the organization and those we serve was always top of mind for Ray. He brought his all to each meeting, interaction, or event — you never got the sense that he wasn’t fully present. It’s quite an impressive thing to maintain that kind of enthusiasm for so many years.”

Ray, we will miss your wisdom, kindness, creativity, and steadfastness, but we look forward to continuing to have you in our lives and in our corner. Thank you for 13 impactful years. Three cheers to you, Ray!

It’s a Community

It’s a Community

By Layani B

“What are your plans for the summer”? While other kids my age decided to spend their summers on their phones or watching TV, I decided to go out into the gardens and get my hands dirty! During my time at the Youth Seed Enterprise Program (YSE), I learned about issues including environmental racism, personal wellness, and more.

On the first day in the Rolling Hills garden, we started pulling weeds and clearing up the beds. At our garden, there were tons of weeds that loved to grow, so, throughout the whole summer that was one thing we had to constantly take care of. Although some people may not like pulling weeds, I enjoyed it. It was therapeutic for me. Along with pulling weeds, I enjoyed harvesting carrots, cabbages, and potatoes among all of the vegetables we grew and distributed.

Wednesdays were our harvest days, where we would harvest all the vegetables that were ready to be picked and distribute them to people who had signed up to receive fresh produce weekly. The first week of distribution was nerve-racking because I didn’t know if people would answer the door, and worried that I would mess up my pitch. Luckily as the weeks went by, I overcame my nerves and even got better at my pitch!

I also liked our daily afternoon Zoom meeting meetings because people from all four gardens would join and have conversations about things like how important it is to take care of yourself. One specific piece of advice I was given was to look for purposes. I valued these conversations, and I will use the advice for the rest of my life.

During my summer with Trellis, I learned more than I thought I would. When I first joined, I thought the program would be a short gardening program where I could make some money. However, as I kept participating and meeting new people, I noticed that Trellis isn’t just a “quick summer job”. It’s a community. If I had to rate my overall experience, I would give it a 10/10. I 100% recommended anyone to be a part of the Youth Seed Enterprise program.

My Journey with Trellis

My Journey with Trellis

By Tessa Henry

I was first introduced to Trellis for Tomorrow as a high school student in 2003.  At that time I was shy and knew little of how food can impact communities and our lives.  Fast forward to 2021 and I serve as a diplomat representing the U.S. government for the Department of State.  What does food have to do with diplomacy?  For me, everything.  My experience with Trellis ignited my interest and commitment to public service.

I was one of the first participants in Trellis’s youth programs.  Trellis taught me about food justice, sustainability, and compassion for one’s community.  I learned about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and saw firsthand the positive impact  a local food garden can have  in communities of need.  I enjoyed working alongside my neighbors and peers in supporting access to local fruits and vegetables.

Trellis provided the professional development that I needed at such a critical stage in my life.  Their youth programs nourished my leadership potential, empowered my interest in community service, and challenged my self-awareness.  I served on the Youth Advisory Board to share my perspective on how to strengthen their youth outreach. This experience gave me confidence and exposure to how the public sector can change lives.

I believe in Trellis for Tomorrow’s mission to foster compassion in youth and inspire them to build sustainable communities.  Still excited by Trellis’s impact, I became a Board member in 2014 so I could  continue to support their growth.  Trellis nurtured my commitment to public service and is a testament to where I find myself today.  My involvement also taught me the importance of empathy and leadership; skills I use every day in my role as a public servant.

I am one of many examples of the profound impact this organization has on its youth participants.  I am deeply grateful for the organization’s care and commitment that guided my journey from a once timid student into a confident, successful, and empowered leader.

The Costs of our Food System

The Costs of our Food System

By: Ricardo M

I have learned so many things about food systems in the last two years as a Youth Seed Enterprise (YSE) participant with Trellis for Tomorrow, some of which shocked me. It made me rethink what I eat every day. Our food system is very harmful to the environment and us, but it is also very unstable. For example, millions of animals a year endure very poor conditions just for our consumption. I am not a vegan, but I do understand why a lot of people are. The meat industry contaminates just as much as the whole transportation industry, with as many gaseous fumes being emitted from meat factories as cars in the roads. This is why we have to change it as soon as possible because if we don’t, our life on earth will end sooner.

I am from a place called Guatemala, located in Central America. I moved here when I was 9, so I understand how both America and Guatemala produce and distribute food. In Guatemala, there were not many supermarkets. Most of the food was found in small marketplaces. On whole street blocks of tents people would sell fruits and vegetables of all kinds, along with complementary spices. I found less heavily processed products besides the usual different types of chips. Needless to say, I am sure that the fruits and vegetables also had some pesticides in them as they do in the US.

When I moved to the US, I was amazed by how many products were on neatly stacked shelves with a lot of colors and shapes. It was truly a whole different food experience. But now after years of consumption and ignorance, I have learned the cost of those things. The cost of having tons and tons of ‘food’ stacked next to each other, the cost of cheap and colorful products, the cost of GMO and pesticide fruits and vegetables. I learned the cost of our food system, and it’s not sustainable.

Our food system needs to change, and that change needs to happen now. We can start by eating more organic food. And even better, growing our own food, just like we do in the YSE program. Gardening helps us to make a connection with earth and what it can give naturally. Most importantly, we need to understand why we have to change, why we have to create a completely new system in which we all get freshly grown food and make this world a better place…literally.