This winter we are very excited to be welcoming Jesus Perez and Zainab Youngmark into roles as south Minneapolis Farm Stewards. As Farm Stewards, Jesus and Zainab are in many ways the face of Youth Farm in our neighborhoods. They will lead all our Youth Farmer and All Stars programs in the Lyndale and Powderhorn programs. You will see them out and about at community events, meetings, and in the gardens. Additionally, Jesus and Zainab will be the summer program managers for Lyndale and Powderhorn, respectively. That means they will be our on-site leaders and the main point of contact for parents.
Both Jesus and Zainab have previous experience with Youth Farm as youth participants, as Project LEAD interns, as summer staff, and as school year staff. Jesus previously spent three years as a Farm Steward, and it is very exciting to welcome him back into the organization in an expanded role. Zainab served as Interim Powderhorn Director last fall, and we are very pleased she will be able to continue her work supporting the Project LEAD and leading programming in Powderhorn Park into the future.
We are immensely proud as an organization to be able to support our young leaders to take on leadership roles in their community and in Youth Farm. As former youth participants and LEAD, Jesus and Zainab have an incredible window into the impact and benefits of our programs. They have deep roots and relationships within south Minneapolis and are incredible role models to their peers and our young people. My deepest thanks and appreciation to them both! To learn more about them in their own words, read up on their biographies here.
To the best of my knowledge, West Side Youth Farm’s first program happened in the spring of 2000 when then Program Director Gunnar Liden and Humboldt’s Middle School science teacher Ms. Lyde partnered up and offered a spring elective focused on gardening, biology, and the environment. It was in that class that my fellow classmate and I mapped out what would become the “Main Garden” and started turning the soil and kicking out beds as the snow melted.
Fast forward to today and the Humboldt – West Side Youth Farm partnership is renewed and strong. Humboldt now offers specific agriculture focused classes and Youth Farm partners with the after-school program to offer gardening and cooking classes for 6th-9th graders. Throughout the past summer WS YF also helped maintain the Humboldt vegetable garden while teachers and students were on summer break. The partnership has been successful as both parties often benefit.
Special Thanks to teachers Andrea Nthole, TJ Austin, and Beverly Babcock and Principal Michael Sodomka for supporting YF in our mission and goals. Go Hawks!
West Side Youth Farm staff and youth will be selling produce on Saturdays from 8:30am to 12:30pm at the West Side Farmer’s Market. The market is located in St. Paul at the intersection of George Street and Stryker Ave. Each Saturday throughout the growing season local vendors sell produce, baked goods, and market products like soap. YF will continue to host a stand this fall through the end of season party on October 11th. Hope to see you there. Check out the links below to learn more about the market and vendors through the new Farmer’s Market Documentary.
Over the weekend the Farm Stewards Asiya, Alice, Jordan, and Shanna led a information and activity table for Youth Farm at Loring Park. We made salsa for taste testing to allow attendees to experience the program from the youth and communities across five neighborhoods of sustainable, natural, youth led food creation and awesome taste. At least a hundred people was drawn in by colors of the beautiful salsa and just said wow! They “adored” it has one person summarized.
Alice lead the charge of making salsa from about 2-6:30pm and people were lining up and telling friends about the great, youth grown salsa! We also wanted to people to walk away knowing the benefit of eating vegetables especially locally and sustainably grown. We had a fun and eager family lead a Rotten idea skit about the benefits of tomatoes. They were enthusiastic and funny while they used the Youth Farm veggies props and silly scripts. On lookers cheered “eat a tomato!” to teach the characters how to solve their misfortune of bad skin and colds. Actors and audience through the Youth Farm way learned why tomatoes are important and impact our health.
Compost and recycling was highlighted at the festival as the process is a natural way to boost soil and support plants into growing amazingly and recycling is an environment friendly practice that aids the planet in staying clean and harvest less resources. With youth that visited our tent, we did the youth farm compost relay race. They first harnessed info they already knew about food and reducing waste and a fun tutorial on what compost is. From there, they where given cards and three buckets label trash, compost, and recyclables. They raced to place their cards in the appropriate bucket. The winners had fun and noted they learned a lot. Winners got to either judge or participate in the salsa making contests!
The salsa making contest allowed contestants the experience of making their own food instead of seeking processed nourishment. They were given healthy, naturally, community grown food and a YF has a guideline but encouraged to have fun, make mistake, and problem solve as our intentional youth model does with our youth. Cumin, jalapeños , onions, and tomatoes was a few items offered to the creative chiefs. The cooks ranging from adults to little ones before beginning got our youth farm styled knife safety training and was given five minutes to make magic! People loved it and winners got a shirt!
The varies activities really introduced people to great work we do. People admiring the sign with out doing an activity came over to see what was going on. They enjoyed what we do and felt it was very important to give youth to access healthy food, wholesome programming , and space for them to make choices and grow. It was a big success.
We really love our greenhouse on the West Side, so much that we have nearly all of our meetings there. The West Side LEAD Interns, All-Stars, Youth Farmers, volunteers, and also Cherokee School students all visit the GH regularly to keep it looking nice and green. Not only have the West Side youth been growing in the GH but the All-Stars from both Frogtown and Lyndale have joined the greenhouse party as well. Youth Farm is a blast and we get a lot of work done too.
This winter we’ve been having a great time seeding, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting salad greens. Additionally we get a jump on the short MN growing season by starting all of our plant starts. Crops like tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi all benefit from 4-8 weeks of growing inside before being transplanted to the garden. Be sure to check out the photos below, it’s kind of silly how much fun we have growing and eating lettuce.
Last weekend Lyndale Project LEAD and Farm Stewards drove 3 hours north to Two Harbors for an intensive retreat. Over the weekend we began planning our summer program, committed to our food distribution outlets for this growing season, and made lots of yummy food using produce we had grown and preserved last year. Our biggest project over the weekend was developing our team’s youth work skill set in role modeling, motivating youth in small groups, and supporting the teacher. Other highlights included digging the van out of a snowbank (totally my fault) and visiting Gooseberry Falls.
Special thanks to the Carlis family for letting us stay at the North Four!
Farm Stewards are getting a jump on the summer by testing out different salad and dressing combinations. Youth Farm grows all the produce for our summer lunches, including enough salads for over 6000 meals!
This passing fall season offered fun and interesting experiences in food preservation. Youth Farm has adopted the model of preserving food grown in the summer to allow the crops to serve a nutritious and wholesome purpose well after the first frost. Looking on to 2014 with a glance back into 2013, it’s great to reflect on the success of cooking food during the fall that was grow in the summer. A huge highlight was the All Things Food fall session youth brainstorming together what foods to make each week based on food stored from the summer. Their thoughtful use of food based on seasonality and creativity was so delightful. They made dishes such as butternut squash soup with squash from Lyndale, pesto from basil given by Whittier and apple pie and tarts from the generous amount of apples provided by the Pillsbury and CHT gardens! Being able to retain the labor, planning, and time given in the summer through delicious meals and teaching moments in the fall made programming fun and engaging for the youth. The fall also exposed the opportunity to envision next year through planning, reflecting, and problem solving, and celebrating accomplishments. Each fall, as initial prep and conversation begins for the next year, enthusiasm and anxious occurs to fulfill the aspirations of growing more food and serving youth to the fullest in the next year to come. Here’s to a great 2014.
Summer program was a success, but another success that I enjoyed was the Friday night class (niños class). I worked with an amazing group of youth that are willing to learn new things. Every week, we prepared food for 30 people in 3 hour class, including the youth’s mothers and younger siblings. We learn many things together like how to preserve food and how to make dishes that they never did at home. One of the highlights of the class was using our own food that we grow in our meals, so youth have a really good connection with the food and share it with their families at home. Another success is youth working together as a team to cook for all those people and still have time to play some fun games. After all youth enjoyed coming to class, and I can’t wait to start class again.
Ed.- This year the Niños de Lyndale prepared over 500 meals for their families! Thank you to the Latinas de Lyndale en Liderazgo, from Lyndale Neighborhood Association’s Women’s Leadership Program for making this program possible.
To celebrate our final greenhouse class of the fall the Youth Farmers decided we should have a party. With music, decorations, dancing, courtyard soccer, gummy worms, and guests, we celebrated the past seasons accomplishments. This fall there was a lot of be proud of. Led by Farm Steward Teng Lee, the greenhouse after-school group successfully harvested, saved lettuce, radish, basil, and bean seeds, started head lettuce (that we’ll eat in January), became worm wranglers (vermicomposters), turned the compost, and put the Cherokee School garden to rest for the year. The previous week we made the trek across the Smith avenue bridge to a small park, climb atop the Huge chair and made observations about the Mississippi below. All in all a lot of fun.