We have some bittersweet news to share: later this summer, Gunnar Liden will be transitioning out of his role as the Executive Director at Youth Farm. Gunnar has grown with Youth Farm for 22 years, serving as Executive Director since 2006. During this time, he’s stewarded the organization through many periods of change and growth with thoughtful, generous, and exemplary leadership. We want to take this moment to thank Gunnar for all the time and care he’s put into Youth Farm over the years! We know the future has great things in store for him and wish him all the best in this new chapter.
So, what’s next for Youth Farm? The growing season is upon us, and we’re growing right along with it! We recognize this moment as an opportunity to reimagine what leadership looks like at Youth Farm – and that’s just what we’ve been doing. Since January of this year, a transition team of board and staff led by Associate Directors Sarah and Amanda, have been working hard to envision and actualize an updated leadership model that will allow us to live out our values and support our vision for the future of Youth Farm.
In the coming months, we’ll continue to share information and updates about leadership at Youth Farm. For now, check out these letters from Gunnar & Kenny, Youth Farm’s Board Chair, to learn more.
A Message from Gunnar
Dear Youth Farm Family,
I am reaching out with much love to announce my planned transition from the Executive Director role at Youth Farm in Summer 2022.
I began my work at Youth Farm just two days after I graduated college. I had no idea of the wonderful journey I was about to embark on. For the first 7 years, I had my dream job, building a neighborhood program from the ground up on the West Side of St. Paul alongside the most amazing group of young leaders. We did everything together – we farmed together, we cooked and ate together, we fed our community and ran markets together, we ran around and played together, but more than anything, we developed life long relationships. In both the fun and challenging times, we always knew we could lean on the trust and love we had for one another. In 2006, Youth Farm took a chance and hired me as Executive Director. The past 16 years, we have collectively grown Youth Farm into the amazing organization it is today, working through financial ups and downs, geographic and programmatic growth, all while staying true to our youth development roots and our mission – We Farm to Grow. We have accomplished so much during this time, and none of it could have been done without each other.
Youth Farm is in a great place and is ready for new leadership to launch itself into its next phase as an organization. This transition is strategic and purposeful. Alongside our staff team of directors and our board, we have been working since January to envision and bring to life what’s needed next for Youth Farm’s future. We have solidified our values and our vision and we are aligning the skills, assets and the opportunities in front of us with a leadership model that supports the organization we will be in the future.
I end this ironically struggling to find the words to express my gratitude and love for all in the Youth Farm family. From those original Youth Farmers on the West Side, to the multitude of amazing program staff, board volunteers and community partners who have been dedicated to the communities we work and live in, to the powerhouse team of leaders currently guiding Youth Farm to new heights, I say this without hyperbole, I love you like family. I am so excited to see Youth Farm continue to blossom and am so thankful for your willingness to let me be a part of your journey for so long.
A Message from Youth Farm Board Chair, Kenny
Youth Farm Family –
As you saw in Gunnar’s note, after a remarkable 22-year journey, Gunnar will be leaving Youth Farm later this summer. Before going any further, I want to express my gratitude for Gunnar – for his tremendous leadership over the years at Youth Farm, for helping us to grow as a recognized community leader, and for the caring, thoughtful, and deeply personal way that he helped Youth Farm get there. Along the way he has become a friend and confidant to many including me. Congratulations Gunnar and you will be missed!
After nearly six years on the Youth Farm board, today is my first chance to write to all of you so here’s the briefest of introductions: I’m Kenny, I’m the board chair, a Minneapolis resident, a volunteer with Youth Farm since 2016, and someone who is inspired daily by the work of the Youth Farm team in the Twin Cities.
While I will miss my partnership with Gunnar, I agree with everything he said – Youth Farm is in a great place and it’s time to chart our course towards what’s next. I want to give you my assurance that the stewardship of the organization is in good hands. The Associate Directors, Amanda and Sarah, have worked with Gunnar and the Youth Farm board and staff to build and execute a strong plan for assessing our current state and determining what inclusive leadership looks like. I’m proud that we’re approaching this work in a manner that is fully aligned with our vision, values, and purpose while balancing the needs of our day to day operations in neighborhoods, greenhouses, gardens, and beyond. The growing season is underway!
Meanwhile, Gunnar isn’t bailing on us right away! He has been a great partner in the transition plan and continues to play critical roles helping us to continue our youth development work while also building for the future. It is a challenge that the Youth Farm board and staff are ready for.
With the upcoming transition, I hope that you’ll take a moment to share a word of thanks and gratitude with Gunnar. If you have questions or concerns about the transition, organization, or our search processes and you want to connect directly with me, please do not hesitate to reach out. Expect to hear more from me, the board, and staff in the coming months.
My continued thanks for your support and engagement with Youth Farm this growing season and beyond!