Photo by Neshan H. Naltchayan
Calvin Riggleman, Kelly D. Carlisle and Edgar Hercila
Calvin Riggleman, Kelly D. Carlisle and Edgar Hercila

“I think that the typical image of a veteran is not me,” Navy Veteran Kelly D. Carlisle told a totally engaged audience at Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Public Media and Lidia Bastianich Celebrate Homegrown Heroes luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C.  “You know there’s not a whole lot of veterans that look like this and I think one of the things that CPB does well is show how representation matters – the fact that I’m a veteran, the fact that I’m black, the fact that I’m a woman, the fact that I work in a low income part of the country – all of that matters.” Kelly is the Founder & Executive Director of Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project. What does Acta Non Verba mean? “Deeds not Words:” It’s Latin and it’s actually the words of the Merchant Marines. 

Kelly’s story: When she came back from the military she had a few corporate jobs in the city but got laid off several times and ended up in a plant nursery.  When she came across a little tree that had an enormous lemon on it she thought somebody had vandalized the tree so she tried to get the lemon off and realized it was attached.  “So I bought the tree and I bought a garbage can and a whole bunch of compost and planted it and dared the tree to give me another lemon. And then, I was in love. It was like everything in Harry Potter all in this one plant: Splarius.” Now she has a four acre farm near the Oakland Coliseum that’s run by kids age five to thirteen. They plan, plant, harvest and sell the produce that they grow and 100% of those dollars are placed into individual savings account for their futures. She is an avid gardener whose work has been honored at the White House By President Barack Obama.