Saybrook Presidential Fellow brings positive change in home city

Kelly D. Carlisle, Founder and Executive Director of Acta Non Verba

Kelly D. Carlisle, Founder and Executive Director of Acta Non Verba, and Saybrook Presidential Fellow

Saybrook University is pleased to announce the appointment of our fourth Presidential Fellow, Ms. Kelly Carlisle, Executive Director of Acta Non Verba and resident of Oakland, California. We welcome her to the Saybrook family and look forward to partnering with her to advance positive social change in Oakland!

Carlisle writes in her bio at Newman’s Own Foundation that she enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2001, where she served as Operations Specialist. Upon returning to civilian life, she says she was distressed by the severe conditions in her childhood home of East Oakland where poverty, childhood obesity, and school dropout rates are high. As a mother and a veteran, she decided she wanted to be part of the solution.

“I didn’t immediately consider urban farming,” Carlisle explains. “But one day, I was cruising a nursery and came across a lemon tree that had two ripe lemons on it. My daughter, who was three at the time, was shocked! So I purchased the lemon tree and dared it to produce again. It did. I decided right there that I wanted to learn how to grow everything. I was meant to grow food, and growing food was going to transform my community.”

As a result, she founded Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project with a group of neighbors in August 2010. Acta Non Verba means “Deeds, not Words.” The organization’s primary focus is at-risk youth in grades K-8 and their families. The students plant, cultivate, and harvest crops year round, and sell the produce to local residents. All proceeds are placed into individual savings accounts.

In 2011, Acta Non Verba got a boost from the Farmer Veteran Coalition after Carlisle was named a Bon Appétit Good Food Fellow. The fellowship enabled the organization to purchase a heavy-duty pickup truck. In addition, they’ve moved into a new office space, hired several employees, and are in the process of recruiting a Board of Directors.

Since Acta Non Verba’s inception, Carlisle and her team have cultivated dozens of crops, planted fruit trees, built a beehive, and more. They even hold garden parties and community dinners on a monthly basis.

“We’ve engaged hundreds of schoolchildren, and many adults, in learning new skills and taking charge of their health,” Carlisle says. “They are eating better, earning money, and experiencing the joy of being close to the Earth. We’re realizing our vision of holistic community revival—literally from the ground up. I’m proud to be a part of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. This is what I fought for.”

We look forward to seeing the unique ways Mrs. Carlisle will collaborate with the Saybrook community.