The BIG Dinner Party – 2017

Throughout the summer of 2017, Youth Farms’ Hawthorne Community Organizer Marcus Kar worked with a cadre of North Minneapolis organizations including Appetite for Change, Northside Fresh Coalition and West Broadway Business & Area Coalition, as well as North Minneapolis residents to combine resources and talent around a series of community events focused on healthy eating, food access and creative solutions to public safety. This inclusive dinner series, supported by the City of Minneapolis Public Safety Initiative, named The BIG Dinner Party by Youth Farmers in North Minneapolis used produce grown locally by Youth Farmers and local gardeners to break bread with thousands of North Minneapolis residents at community gatherings throughout the summer, to celebrate community, healthy foods, and active living in North Minneapolis.

In addition to food, the BIG Dinner Party actively utilized art and music as gathering and engagement tools. Musician/Organizer Marcus Kar led an African Drumming workshop focused on Djembe during the dinners. Youth Farm also worked with Soul Tools Entertainment to help document the happenings throughout the summer and fall in association with The BIG Dinner Party, culminating in a soon to be released short film. As the summer progressed into fall, the project, originally conceived as a series of 3 stand alone dinners, morphed into a project that utilized community and organizational partnerships to “bring” the BIG Dinner Party project to 7 different events and public gatherings across North Minneapolis with food, art, music, and engagement around public safety.

While the events have ended, The BIG Dinner Party work continues on. Marcus Kar will be releasing an EP with Youth Farmers and local hip hop artists highlighting many of the themes of the project. Artist Brandon Brown of Onyx Cycles and a group of Youth Farmers will be finishing their solar powered bike which will be utilized for neighborhood food distribution in 2018, and Youth Farm will be releasing the results from our community surveys around health and food access over the coming months.

The BIG Dinner Party is just beginning. What started as an idea about hosting community dinners and community engagement, has become a central part of Youth Farm’s way to engage youth in North Minneapolis in the real day to day work of food justice. Stay tuned for more in the coming months.

Place Matters – Learn about Youth Farm’s Neighborhood Based Programming & Our Goals of Impact

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.

Click image to enlarge map

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Farm Days at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School

This week students at Nellie Stone Johnson harvested the farm at their school. In total 200 students harvested over 250 pounds of food!  The hallways were a buzz with news of grape tasting, collard green harvesting, and hot pepper sampling. Bouquets of kale could be seen throughout the building.  The produce harvested was sent home with families and recipes were passed around.

The kale harvest was particularly timely as this week MPS Culinary and Nutrition Services features kale as part of MN Thursdays

Want to enjoy kale along with the students at NSJ? Here is a link to MPS Culinary and Nutrition Services’ Green Lava Kale Salad and Youth Farm’s Kale and Potato Soup 


Hawthorne Organizer Marcus Kar proudly shows off some of the harvest from this fall’s farm days at NSJ.

Welcome Hawthorne Organizer Marcus Kar!

This week Youth Farm is honored to welcome our Hawthorne Community Organizer Marcus Kar!

Marcus comes to Youth Farm with deep connections on the Northside, a passion for community and relationship building, an ability to use music as a tool for community and youth development, and a love of food. We are honored that he has chosen to join our team.

Marcus will be learning alongside his fellow Youth Farm staff.  His work on the Northside will include working alongside Farm Steward Sergio and taking what he learns from our Youth Farm model and adapting it to fit the communities we work in on the Northside. He will also continue our partnership with Nellie Stone Johnson school working to connect farming and nutrition to the classroom.
We are excited for what he has to offer and for the enthusiasm and passion he brings to youth work and food access. Welcome Marcus!
Marcus will be the main contact for all of Youth Farm Hawthorne and Northside work. Learn more about Marcus and how to contact him here
Marcus shows off his first harvest after a farm work day with Nellie Stone Johnson 4th grade students.

Welcome Hawthorne Farm Stewards!

Meet your Hawthorne Farm Stewards: Sergio and Divine!

Sergio has been a part of Youth Farm since our first year in the Hawthorne Neighborhood in 2011 and is one of the youth founders of our Hawthorne Program. As a middle school student at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School, Sergio built the school garden, organized with other students the school’s composting program, and helped Youth Farm grow its program on the Northside. He returns this year as a Farm Steward and Co-Manager of Youth Farm’s Nellie Stone Johnson Farm.  Learn more about Sergio and how to contact him here.

Divine joined the Hawthorne Youth Farm team 3  years ago and brought with her passion and experience in gardening in her community. Prior to her time at Youth Farm, she worked with Project Sweetie Pie. Divine’s passion for gardening is contagious and extends to the youth she serves in our program. Divine returns this year as a Farm Steward and Co-Manager of Youth Farm’s Nellie Stone Johnson Farm.  Learn more about Divine and how to contact her here.

We are excited to have Sergio and Divine team up to grow food on the Northside and engage youth at Nellie Stone Johnson.


Sergio and Divine celebrate a successful school year farming season on the last day of Minneapolis Public Schools with a garden party!

Wrapping up the school year farm season with a Garden Party!

Youth Farm and Nellie Stone Johnson 5th Graders from room 127 wrapped up a great school year garden season Tuesday with a garden party! Throughout the school year 5th graders learned seeding and transplanting skills in order to teach the H-5 through 4th graders these skills. As a school, over 250 students planted 30 greenhouse trays in April and the entire school farm in May. Needless to say, the 5th graders had a lot to celebrate. As part of our garden party, Youth Farm was presented with a Garden Book made by the 5th Graders of room 127 and we snacked on rhubarb jam, salad with greens and radishes, and cheddar chive biscuits all made with produce from the farm.

Thanks Nellie Stone for a great school year farm season. At Youth Farm, we are looking forward to summer school and the fall harvest.


The first harvest at Nellie Stone Johnson Farm just in time for the last day of school.
5th Graders hunt for strawberries during the Garden Party.
Hawthorne Farm Stewards and Nellie Stone Johnson Farm Managers Divine and Sergio are presented with the 5th Grade Garden Book.

Youth Farm is hiring in Hawthorne in North Minneapolis

Ms. Bev & VaronPassionate about youth development? Have experience community organizing? Know the north side of Minneapolis? Bring those talents and interests together at Youth Farm. Youth Farm is currently hiring a Community Organizer position in North Minneapolis’ Hawthorne neighborhood to engage youth, community partners and families in youth leadership, food access, and community change. Learn more about the position and how to apply HERE

Closing down the Farm for the winter at Nellie Stone Johnson

Last week Tyler and the third grade team spent the day harvesting beans for drying to plant in the spring. They also got to snack on the last of the fresh beans with parsley hummus! Throughout the fall the third graders and fifth graders at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School will put the farm to bed for the winter by harvesting the last of the greens, seed saving, and mulching. Tyler was also excited to see former West Side Youth Farmer, Jerome at his new school on the Northside.



Partner & Volunteer Appreciation Month – The Role of Churches in Urban Ag

LPAThere 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!

Aareal’s Sour Pickles

Today I wanted to share a great pickling recipe that one of our Hawthorne youth tried out last week. Aareal Taylor has been working hard all year at our Nellie Stone Johnson Farm caring for the plants as part of her school classes, her after school activities and through our summer program. The other day as we were dropping off some delicious fruits of her labor of love, her grandmother Shirley let me know that Aareal had found a sour pickle recipe and had tried it out with the cucumbers we had delivered. I just got an update from Shirley today saying that they tried them this morning and that they tasted great! They both love sour pickles and hopefully you do too! Thanks Aareal for the inspiration, I can’t wait for ours to be done!

Sour Pickles (from Preserving Made Easy by Margaret Howard)


  • 1.5 cups distilled white vinegar or apple-cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 3 whole all spice berries
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 pound pickling cucumbers, trimmed and cut into ½-inch wedges
  • 8 sprigs dill
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled


Combine vinegar, ½ cup water, sugar, spices, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Fill clean containers tightly with vegetables. Add boiling brine to cover completely. Let cool completely. Cover, label and refrigerate at least 1 week before serving or up to 3 months. Makes 2 pints.