Last week, all the Project LEAD from St. Paul gathered for a three day “city” retreat to team build, plan for our Youth Farmer program, visit Philadelphia Farm, and soak up the sun at Lake Nokomis. Look at these delicious strawberries we picked at Philly Farm! In addition, we planted acorn squash, played with goats and chickens, and took a hike to a waterfall and native prairie.
Place matters. By grounding our work in neighborhoods, young people, their families and neighbors feel greater ownership, accountability, and understanding of the powerful role youth play in a community. Strong intergenerational and intercultural relationships among youth, parents, business owners, churches, schools, community centers, and neighbors, connects youth and adults in each neighborhood, creating a long term foundation for social change.
Youth Farm’s current 5 neighborhoods (Lyndale & Powderhorn is South Minneapolis, Hawthorne in North Minneapolis, and Frogtown and West Side in St. Paul) all have great strengths and possibility, a multitude of community institutions and schools to partner with, and youth as a key asset, and varying levels of food insecurity in and around the neighborhoods. Within these neighborhoods, Youth Farm seeks to address and/or engage around 3 main areas:
Youth as a community asset: For many in the Youth Development field, asset based youth programming is not a new concept. Youth Farm not only focuses on building positive development of skills and experience in programs, but also in the communities themselves. Youth Farm has over two decades of experience actively engaging youth in the neighborhood they live in to be true social change makers through the work they do around food. Youth Farm strikes a balance of engaging youth as real community contributors, while also focusing on childhood as a time for exploration, learning, and discovery.
Access to quality youth programming: For many lower income families, finding quality youth programming that they can afford is a struggle. In an effort to be accessible to all youth, Youth Farm’s programs are free, eliminating one clear barrier. Cost is not the only factor that prevents youth from accessing programs. In an effort to proactively facilitate participation for all youth, our program staff work intentionally throughout the year to reach neighborhood families who have additional barriers that include: limited English language skills, transportation, and unstable home environments. We work to prioritize youth and families with the least access.
Local food access for lower income residents: We continue to refine our model to provide more fresh, healthy food to lower income residents in a way that is sustainable and true to our youth development mission. We engage youth in effective local food distribution, by involving them not just in the growing and distributing of produce in unique ways such as family CSA’s, cooking classes and food shelves, but as community researchers and planners in their Action Research and neighborhood food distribution plans. By actively engaging youth and families that have the least access, we are more effective at having youth as true community change makers.
Where Youth Farm establishes programs is very intentional, as is who we work to engage and create access to our programs. While we have evolved and grown over the last 23 years, the importance of place and the role neighborhood based programming plays in our approach has remained solid. Strong connections and involvement in each of these 5 neighborhoods provides the foundation both for Youth Farm’s work and Youth Farmers success in becoming great leaders.
It seems crazy, but our summer here at Youth Farm is quickly coming to an end. As sad we are that our summer program only has a few days left, we are excited to celebrate all the great accomplishments of our amazing Youth Farmers. Please join us this week for any of our 4 neighborhood Harvest Festivals and help recognize the wonderful work these hundreds of Youth Farmers do as community leaders.
Lyndale Harvest Festival – August 10th 5:30-7:30 pm – Zion Lutheran Church – 128 W. 33rd St., Minneapolis 55408
Powderhorn Harvest Festival – August 11th 5:30 – 7:30 pm – Powderhorn Park – 3400 15th Ave. S. Minneapolis 55408
Frogtown Harvest Festival – August 12th 4:00 – 6:30 pm – 739 Lafond Ave. St. Paul 55104
West Side Harvest Festival – August 12th 4:00 – 6:00 pm – La Puerta Abierta – 690 Livingston Ave. S., St. Paul 55107
As the reigning championship neighborhood, come to the West Side Harvest Festival to learn who is the winner of this years Compost Cup, the award given to the neighborhood with the Hottest Compost!
We hope to see you at these events. Questions about Minneapolis Harvest Festivals, call 612.990.9261 and questions about St. Paul Harvest Festivals, call 651.325.7453
Youth Farmers in Frogtown dedicate their entire Friday to learning about Sustainability. They learned about Hoop Houses at Frogtown Farms, played games to test their knowledge of recycling & composting with Eureka Recycling, and made bird feeders with staff out of materials that would otherwise have been thrown away.
From top left clockwise: West Side Youth Farmers meet with LEAD staff Heaven to plan out afternoon focus groups, Frogtown bikers head off to morning garden time, West Side youth enjoy an afternoon get you know you game, and Frogtown YF plays capture the flag at new partner site Frogtown Farms.
As we wrap up our first week of summer program, we are celebrating by hosting a family day on the West Side, visiting our new partners Frogtown Farm, visiting with former Lyndale Farm Steward Shanna, and eating Pad Thai for lunch! We are honored to have witnessed the leadership of our Farm Stewards this week as they led summer program. For the last round of staff introductions, please meet your St. Paul Farm Stewards Alice Martin, Teng Lee, and AJ Zozulin!
Alice has been part of Youth Farm for nearly as long as Youth Farm has been on the West Side. This is her 16th summer! She has played almost every role at Youth Farm from Project LEAD to Farm Steward to Summer Chef. She brings with her not only a passion for the work, but also a kind heart and gentle personality that connects deeply with the youth she serves. She, alongside Teng Lee and a cohort of other young adults, developed Youth Farm’s Farm Steward Program. She has played an integral role on the West Side most recently serving as the Interim Director this year. Alice is currently the Greenhouse Manager and Summer Staff on the West Side. Learn more about Alice and how to contact her here.
Teng first jumped on board with Youth Farm in 2011 as a summer staff. He brought with him years of gardening experience from partner organization Urban Roots. During his first year, he worked alongside fellow Farm Steward Alice and a cohort of other young adults to develop Youth Farm’s Farm Steward Program. In addition to his experience at Youth Farm, Teng also works in childcare and community organizing. He bring with him contagious energy, thoughtfulness, and a true passion for the youth he engages with. Teng is the Summer Program Manager for the West Side neighborhood and is the on-site contact for youth and families in that program. Learn more about Teng here.
AJ joined the Youth Farm team in 2011, Youth Farm’s first summer in the Frogtown Neighborhood. He has returned year after year as a summer staff and returns this year as a Farm Steward and Summer Program Manager in the Frogtown Neighborhood. AJ brings with him his strong organization and leadership skills, a passion for food and farming (he also works at Trotter’s Cafe, a cafe that has long supported local, fresh food), and a strong desire to learn from the youth he serves. AJ is the Summer Program Manager for the Frogtown Neighborhood and is the on-site contact for youth and families in that program. Learn more about AJ here.
As we gear up for our 22nd summer, we at Youth Farm want to take a moment to reintroduce and acknowledge our staff that dedicate so much time, expertise, and passion to the youth and families in our Youth Farm neighborhoods.
Meet Director of St. Paul Programs Sarah Sarzoza and Director of South Minneapolis Programs Phil Rooney!
Sarah joined the Youth Farm team 2 years ago as our Frogtown Program Director. She brought with her a wealth of experience in youth development and community organizing as well as a love for the neighborhood she grew up in (Frogtown). In her new role as Director of St. Paul programs, Sarah is the first point of contact for families and community partners in our West Side and Frogtown Neighborhoods. Additionally, her role will focus on leadership development and training in both Frogtown and the West Side. Learn more about Sarah and how to contact her here
Phil is entering his 10th summer with Youth Farm. He began his work with Youth Farm on the West Side and served as the Lyndale Program Director for 6 years prior to becoming Director of South Minneapolis Programs. In addition to his experience at Youth Farm, Phil brings with him strong leadership and youth development experience. In his role as Director of South Minneapolis Programs, Phil is the first point of contact for families and community partners in our Powderhorn and Lyndale Neighborhoods. Additionally, his role will focus on leadership development and training in both Powderhorn and Lyndale. Learn more about Phil and how to contact him here.
We are honored that Phil and Sarah choose to share their talents with Youth Farm and are excited to have their leadership. Look for them throughout their Youth Farm neighborhoods next week as we start our summer program!
There was an article in the StarTribune today about how so many Twin Cities Churches are digging up their grass lawns for gardens, and I thought that would be a great way to kick off our month long celebration of our partners and volunteers here at Youth Farm because without our church partners for land and kitchen space, Youth Farm would look a lot different. Each of our neighborhood programs has a key church partner: La Puerta Abierta UMC Church on the West Side, St. Stephanus in Frogtown, Zion Lutheran Church in Lyndale, Ba’Hai in Powderhorn, and St. Olaf in Hawthorne just to name a few. These urban churches have not only let our Youth Farmers dig up their lawns to grow food, they let us take over their kitchens, their meeting spaces and help us connect to new families in the neighborhood. These church partnerships are humbling – they require faith that a chaotic kitchen and a bountiful field of greens are worth their time and effort – and the tangible impact is real. Thank you to all our current and past church partners!