Youth Farm welcomes new Board Members

We were excited to welcome 5 new members this fall to our Board of Directors. This new cohort includes Deb Kierstead, from MCCA, Genevieve Saldibar from Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, Valeria La Rosa from Lifetime Foundation, Shanna Woods from Neighborhood House (and former Youth Farmer), and Alex Lange, a teacher and partner at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School in Hawthorne/North Minneapolis. We are excited to have such a talented and dedicated group of board members. You can learn more about each of them at our Board of Directors page on our website.

At our November board meeting, board members took time to connect with staff and learn about each other, their history’s and connection to Youth Farm, what excites them outside of Youth Farm, and of course, share in some good produce from our farms.

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Powderhorn Empty Bowls is coming up!

Powderhorn Empty Bowls (PEB) is a wonderful community-building event that will celebrate its 9th Anniversary this coming November. Organized and carried out by a core group with the help of approximately 180 volunteers from the neighborhood this is an all-day event held on the first Friday in November each year. Local potters (including professionals, kids’ programs, and college departments) donate hand-made bowls, bread baked onsite and local volunteers cook soup all in an effort to end hunger. Neighbors come together, select a bowl, have a meal of soup and bread, and for this they make a donation.

Powderhorn Empty Bowls has been a supporter of Youth Farm for years, sponsoring our summer lunch program and the community lunches we host as part of the program. Our Youth Farmers always looks forward to helping prepare soup the week of and volunteering in the bowl room and our staff make sure to meet for lunch that day at the park.

Thank you Powderhorn Empty Bowls for being a great partner throughout the years! We look forward to this years event on November 6th!

Thank you Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

It is no secret that Minneapolis boasts the best city parks in the country and at Youth Farm we agree! Not only are we able to access park buildings for cooking classes we are excited and proud to be putting up one of the first hoop houses on Minneapolis Park’s Property at Green Central School. Thanks to great staff at MPRB like Ginger Cannon, Park Commissioners like Scott Vreeland, and an Urban Agriculture Plan  Minneapolis Parks are accessible, beautiful, and support organizations like Youth Farm to fulfill their mission. Thanks for being a great partner Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. We look forward to many years of working together to engage young people in their city parks!

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!

Volunteer & Partner Appreciation month proved how awesome our Youth Farm Family is!

18As October comes to a close, we also wind down our efforts around our 1st Annual Volunteer and Partner Appreciation Month. It feels great to thank people, programs and businesses that we work with for all that they have done. Being able to write about all of you awesome people and partners that contribute your time and resources to support our mission is truly humbling. We also learned that we have so many more volunteers and partners that we were not able to highlight. From the neighbors who help tend to our 18 different farmsites, to the neighborhood associations partners across the Twin Cities, to all of the board members and committee members who are so dedicated to our work and mission, to the multitude or restaurants that donate their time and amazing food to get people to events to support our work, we say THANK YOU!

We are confident in saying that our work and impact would not be possible if it was not for your involvement. We also were reminded that you cannot say thank you enough. We look forward to working with all of you in 2015 and welcome any new people and businesses that want join in the coming year.

Humboldt High School – Years of Partnership

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!

Teachers Andrea Nthole and TJ Austin
Teachers Andrea Nthole and TJ Austin
Turning new beds in preparation for next spring
Turning new beds in preparation for next spring
Farm steward Alice Martin making decorated deviled eggs to celebrate Halloween.
Farm steward Alice Martin making decorated deviled eggs to celebrate Halloween.

A Little Church With A Big Heart


Zion Lutheran Church is home base for Lyndale Youth Farm, and hosts our office for our entire organization. For over 100 years Zion has been a steward of the Lyndale neighborhood, gathering this community in a collective effort of mutual aid and support. Among other efforts the congregation hosts free weekly dinners where everyone is welcome, sews and distributes hundreds of beautiful quilts every year, hosts recovery worships, supports ZOOM House next door with a food shelf, and gathers school supplies for Lyndale Elementary.

The church has a huge impact by also being the most accessible community gathering space in the neighborhood.  Zion is a tremendous asset to Lyndale by welcoming everyone, opening its doors, and helping to build one community from this diverse neighborhood.  Every day the church is bustling, including hosting ELL classes three nights a week, hosting other congregations, hosting YMCA cooking classes, and hosting Youth Farm programs.

Its hard to imagine Youth Farm in Lyndale without the support of Zion Church. Down in the kitchen Zion hosts our cooking class and our main prep site for community meals and food preservation. In the summer Youth Farmers swarm Zion’s grounds three days a week, eating lunch outside, storing program supplies, hosting our lunch and cooking programs, and providing a safe haven in storms.

Thank you Zion for being such an integral partner in our work in Lyndale!

Nellie Stone Johnson Community School

Every time I walk in to Nellie Stone Johnson School, I am welcomed by a friendly wave, a warm greeting as a door is held open for me and hugs from students. The community of students, teachers and staff at NSJ are just so great and truly practice what they teach. Through such a strong partnership, we are able to operate a ton of programming both after school and during the school day.

Thank you so much YMCA Beacons for keeping the lights on afterschool, I so adore faciliating 3-5 Kid’s Cook and Nutrition where students can’t wait to put their recipe book together and try them out at home! And I just love digging into the dirt with the 6th Grade Garden Club PE class, last week they prepped 5 whole beds in under 45 minutes! The 4th graders are learning responsibility by taking care of our Rosemary and Thyme plants in their GrowLab. And the 3rd graders once a month get to see how kitchens and gardens are classrooms.

Thank You Beth Lasley, the Parent Liaison at NSJ, and Randa Ayoub, the NSJ Beacons Site Director, for helping make connections and be a champion of the garden both afterschool and during the school day!

Ms. Beth Lasley
Ms. Beth Lasley


Photo courtesy of
Randa Ayoub


St. Paul Sprockets – Thank You

Sprockets Logo

Sprockets is a network of many different after-school and summer programs for youth in Saint Paul.  It is a collaboration of community organizations (like Youth Farm), the City of Saint Paul, and Saint Paul Public Schools.  Sprockets supports the youth of St. Paul to reach their greatest potential by improving the quality, availability, and effectiveness of Out-of-School Time (OST) learning.

As a Program Director here at Youth Farm I get to see many of the network’s cogs in motion. Cogs like numerous professional development opportunities to attend and send staff to, monthly Neighborhood Network Team meetings where I catch-up and collaborate with other program providers in the neighborhood, and the Shared Database so we can answer big questions like “how many youth attend OST programs and who are they? From my perspective it is clear to see how Sprockets is improving the OST environment and how in turn that is improving the lives of young people.

Special thanks to the Sprockets staff team: Jocelyn, Erik, Eyenga, Lisle, and Tom for keeping all of the parts moving.

sprockets staff selfy

Channing James, definitely a Youth Worker and so much more!

I met Channing in 2012 when she was our Harvest Coordinator in Hawthorne. She introduced herself as “not really a youth worker,” but believe me, she is. Channing has an incredible way of listening to young people, making them feel heard and that they know they matter. She also is real and genuine with them, which gains Youth Farmers’ trust and respect immediately. In the past three summers that she has worked in Hawthorne, Channing has proven to be an impactful youth worker.

This summer she was unable to commit to a staff position, see she is in Medical School and is quite busy as you can imagine. Despite this, she found a way to stay involved with Youth Farm by tying her service learning project to our food distribution plan for the North Oaks residents at St. Olaf. She and a co-classmate, Ted Hagmann, worked with our LEAD to set up a system of distributing food from our farms to the residents each week. As they don’t have much more than a microwave to cook with, we had to be quite strategic to make sure these veggies were able to be eaten raw or that they required minimal preparation. Channing and Ted helped faciliate meetings with the residents and the LEAD to better get an idea of the vaiety of produce that would be useful and the quantities that would be substantial. Each week in the summer, Channing would come to help the Youth Farmers gather, sort and wash the produce for distribution and then they would haul the produce to the residence to pass out. Last Wednesday was our last distribution to the residents and tonight Channing, Ted and our LEAD gathered with our crew of “regulars” to discuss how the whole thing went. The residents just gushed on and on about how much they appreciated the fresh fruits and veggies, but mostly they talked about our kids; how insightful they were, how kind and that they listened. One resident remarked at how he feels young, just by getting to watch them be young and play up on the hill in the garden. Our LEAD saw how much their produce and their blood, sweat and tears impacted the community around them. Their excitement for next year’s planning and winter community meals was catching and it was fun to think of new possibilities.

Thank you so much Channing for being a part of Hawthorne Youth Farm, your connections with young people help them discover incredible new experiences and realizations about the community and world around them!