Youth Farm’s Greenhouse is starting to get green (and red and yellow thanks to the Rainbow Chard)! We have nearly 4,000 seedlings growing right now and we’re not even halfway done for the spring. Stay tuned for more pictures of the cutest plant babies you’ve ever seen!
When you say you are a Minnesota-based non-profit that grows food to develop young leaders, you receive a lot of puzzled looks followed by the question “What does Youth Farm do during the winter?” Well, the truth is, we do a lot!
Yes, Minnesota winters are long and cold, which shortens our growing season; however, the time we spend indoors during winter is a vital part of our programs. Of course, we continue running our school-year programs, which includes after-school cooking classes and greenhouse classes (did we mention we have a greenhouse that grows food year-round!?). More importantly, the winter is a time for us to reflect on our work from the previous fall and summer, as well as to plan and prepare for the upcoming spring and summer. This means, by the first sign of spring, we are ready to hit the ground running!
Here are a handful of Youth Farm highlights from this past January:
Our Project LEAD in each neighborhood met weekly to focus on skill-building and planning for upcoming programming and growing season. This included meeting with community partners to discuss food distribution goals, planning our farms, and reflecting on & practicing youth work skills and strategies. Project LEAD also plan for the week’s classes during these meetings.
At our greenhouse in St. Paul’s West Side neighborhood, Youth Farm led weekly classes where youth grew herbs, lettuce, and start seedlings that will be used at our farms in spring and summer.
Youth Farm’s after-school cooking classes were in full-swing! During these classes Youth Farmers learned basic cooking skills, while All-Stars learned to cook with new foods and worked on perfecting recipe favorites.
Our Program Directors also worked with youth during in-school hours. For instance, our Hawthorne Program Director worked with a group of 4th graders who are using grow lights to grow plants indoors and with a group of 3rd graders to link their garden to classroom goals with what they eat at lunch.
Youth Farm’s West Side greenhouse was changed for the better this past school year and it is easy to see how as soon as you step inside. Quietly demanding your attention with the sounds of a mountain stream is one of the most unique contraptions you’ll ever see. Nearly everyone who views it immediately asks “what is that?” Completely custom and designed to do one thing, Laura, Artemis, and Teréz have increased Youth Farm’s ability to grow food throughout the year with their “productive” art. Made of mundane materials like aluminum conduit and silicone caulk, and curios materials like mahogany and bamboo, the hydroponic system trickles away while growing beautiful heads of lettuce.
Starting with an email back in June of 2013 Crescent Collective was thoughtful and patient as we met over the next 9 months on a project we were calling “Grow Up”. Crescent Collective listened, perfected, and improved their designs until build day in December. Here are the three of them starting to assemble.
From January through May youth farmers, LEAD interns, and myself regularly harvested head lettuce to send home with youth and to supply our cooking classes. We also started using the second system specifically designed to grow tomatoes, it is exceptionally efficient because it allows us to utilize space in our greenhouse during the hot summer months when most plants would simply whither.
As you can see from the photos, a lot of time, thought, and effort went into the design and creation of “Grow-Up”. So please add to the comments as Youth Farm says Thank You to Artemis, Teréz, and Laura.
On Wednesday, youth farmers at Jackson Elementary planted kale seeds during an after-school class. The seeds will grow in the greenhouse until they can be transplanted outside later this spring. Youth farmers love playing with soil!
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.
Lyndale All Stars visited the West Side Youth Farm’s greenhouse last week to check out the new hydroponics system. Loads of lettuce are coming out of the greenhouse this winter for our classes and dinners, and this was a chance for All Stars to sow some seeds and do an on-site taste test. Plus, a trip to the greenhouse wouldn’t be complete without a sledding party!
This past weekend at the Baker Center open house, West Side Youth Farm gave greenhouse tours, tabled, and guided kids as they sled down the huge baker hill. It was exciting to see so many people and organizations at Baker, the Southside YMCA, Cherokee Elementary School, Growing West Side, St. Paul Public Schools, Youth Farm and others were all there to build excitement around the “new” space. Stop into baker during usual business hours or check out the FAB facebook page for more info on classes and activities.