Northside Farm Steward Sergio Arredondo is heavily involved in Youth Farm’s operations, however his involvement started almost accidentally many years ago.
Now 21, Sergio had to dig deep to think about how his time at Youth Farm really started.
“When I was in fifth or sixth grade we had an Americorps member working at our school,” Sergio said. “He was working to start a garden and some students, including myself, helped him build the garden from the ground up. That garden is now the Nellie Stone Johnson (NSJ) School Garden.”
After Sergio and other students had put in countless hours of hard work at the NSJ garden, it was unfortunately time for the garden designer from Americorps to leave. However, he was passionate about the garden he had helped these kids build and didn’t want to see it go unused.
“When it was time for him to leave our school, he found Youth Farm and asked if they would be willing to take over the space. And they said ‘yes,’” Sergio said. “From then on Youth Farm has managed the garden that I helped to build and I have stayed involved since the very beginning.”
The value that Sergio brings to the Youth Farm team is immeasurable. Not only did he help build one of our largest gardens, he also knows the neighborhood and the community within it like the back of his hand. We are so proud that young people like Sergio continue to be involved with our programs year after year and aim to consistently understand why they make the choice to stay engaged.
“When you start something, it sticks with you,” Sergio said. “I built this garden from the ground up and I continue to enjoy being outside tending to the plants here. Also, who gets to say that they have fun at work running around the garden with kids all day? My job at Youth Farm just doesn’t get boring and as I have gotten older I have been able to take on more responsibilities.”
Not only does Sergio enjoy his job as a Farm Steward, but he also helps us achieve our goals by bringing what he learns at work to his family and community.
“When I was younger and had first started at Youth Farm, my family lived in an apartment, so we didn’t have a good space to grow food,” he said. “When we moved from our apartment into our house, we finally had a backyard. Now I take care of our home garden that grows things like peppers, onions, tomatoes, and herbs. The plus is that my mom is an amazing cook and will just run into the backyard if she needs something!”
Although it is clear that Sergio finds comfort in the garden and works hard to master his growing skills, he is most definitely a multi-skilled worker. He is about to start his last year studying welding at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and is set to graduate in the spring of 2020.
As Sergio takes on more responsibilities and forges his way into adulthood, his passion for the work he does at Youth Farm has not fizzled.
“In the next few years I will be looking for a welding job to start my career, but I would really love to stay involved at Youth Farm somehow,” he said. “This is where I grew up and I have been in this garden since it was built. No matter what, I have learned that if I could build this garden when I was in middle school, I can do a lot of things. Through building, working in, and now managing this garden I have worked on myself and networked with so many great people.”
Youth like Sergio who have grown up before our eyes make us believe in a world where people can work, live, grow, and eat peacefully together and we are so excited to see where he takes all of his pride and passion in the future.