Prove your humanity

A new children’s book gets kids excited about growing their own food.

Its author was a teacher with Pittsburgh Public Schools for 11 years but now works as an urban farmer and a community educator. 

Listen to the story:

In 2017, Ebony Evans started farming in her backyard with her children. Today she has two plots, one in the city’s North Side and another in the West End. Her West End corner store, Farmer Girl Eb, emphasizes everyday essentials, dried herbs, and fresh food.

Evans teaches others to grow through her nonprofit Out of the End. That’s how she connected with toddlers at A Peace of Mind Learning Center, where the book “Tomato, Tomato, How Do You Grow?” took root.

“They just became the perfect audience to begin to create routines around growing. The book just kind of came organically with how we interacted in the garden,” Evans said. “We just started saying little chants around the tomatoes, like the words in the book, ‘Water, water, water!’” 

The colorful picture book, filled with rhyming words, helps children to remember the elements it takes to grow a tomato. The illustrator, Kaila Cespedes, was one of the college students working at the child care center. 

“This was her first project. It was amazing,” Evans said. “The kids were able to actually grow food, sell the food at the Wilkinsburg Farmers market and use the money to pay Kaila to illustrate the book.” 

Customers of Evans’ West End store, Farmer Girl Eb, can buy book swag, including a tote bag featuring the artwork of illustrator Kaila Cespedes. Credit: Kara Holsopple/The Allegheny Front.

Evans said she’s gotten good feedback about the book from other teachers and from parents who also have had questions about how to grow tomatoes and what they are doing wrong.

But her biggest fans are the kids who helped her write it.

“Every time they see me, they’re like, ‘I got a book! My book!’ The kids are so excited,” Evans said. “You know, they feel like it’s theirs. And it is. They have a sense of belonging.” 

She said even children who weren’t involved in its creation have seen themselves in the book.

Farmer Girl Eb features everyday essetials, dried herbs, produce, and freshly prepared foods. Credit: Kara Holsopple/The Allegheny Front.

It was sad, Evans said, when her public school career didn’t work out. But she said urban farming opened up an opportunity to educate her community, especially the Black and brown community, on how to grow and sustain food.

“As an urban farmer, I’m excited to be able to live a purpose, live my dream. But I’ve always known that I was born to be an educator,” Evans said.

Evans has written a second children’s book about growing another familiar vegetable which will be published sometime next year.

Read about more Black farmers in the region who are growing food and community in our award-winning series, “Sowing Soil with Soul,” in partnership with Soul Pitt Media.

Four farmers

The Sowing Soil with Soul series features four Black urban farmers. Image: Soul Pitt Media