Thank You Seitu Jones

seitu_bioMr. Seitu Jones. The Youth Farmers in Frogtown and most of the residents know him as the friendly face riding his bike through the neighborhood.  Mr. Jones is more than just a friendly greeter to the community, he is a pillar in the arts community and an activist in the food access movement. Youth Farmers have worked with him in the past to dream up ideas for a mobile community kitchen and to be involved in the CREATE: The Community Meal event this past summer. As a guest artist to the Summer Program in Frogtown Seitu has used his talents to teach kids about clay firing and has even stored ongoing art projects in his home studio. We are very lucky to have him as connection to the Frogtown community. Thank you for all you do Mr. Jones!

EPIC MN – Creating a solid brand and impact for Youth Farm – Thank You!

Youth Farm staff and board meet with creatives to decide on direction on brand.

Almost 2 years ago, we lucky enough to be the first Minnesota non-profit to be selected by EPIC MN to embark on an 8 week rally to better impact our mission and social change efforts through pro-bono work from advertising and creative professionals. This rally turned into a full rebranding effort including a name change, new logo, design, video, photos, language and website. We went from a typical small non-profit with poor graphics, growing and plant imagery, to a new clean look, focused on iconography and a first person tone to our language. This was not an easy process, particularly for those youth and staff who have been a part of our organization for a long time, some over a decade. But trust in the amazing professionals that worked on our team and a belief on our work has led this to have positive impacts beyond our best hopes.

Here are (most of) the great people that led our project at the Rally Wrap up.

Thank you to the great team at EPIC MN for their long lasting work and dedication to our work and mission, there is not a day that goes by that we do not see it’s positive impact!

Thanks to The Wine Company and Larry Colbeck

imagesWe are very thankful for so many of the business partners who help to make our events special and unique. One of those great partners is The Wine Company. Founder Larry Colbeck has been a great supporter in not just sponsoring events through wine donations, but working with our participating chefs to pair the right wine with the right food since 2011. Larry has been an active supporter of work through his attendance and wine donations and we cannot thank him and The Wine Company enough!

Thanks for being great partners!

In the Heart of Lyndale

Joe and Brandon helping Nora build the Lyndale School hoop house in fall 2012
Joe and Brandon helping Nora build the Lyndale School hoop house in fall 2012

Lyndale Elementary is not on Lyndale Avenue but sits deep in the heart of the Lyndale neighborhood. The neighborhood school has been a backbone of this community for many years and is a cornerstone partnership of Lyndale Youth Farm.

Lyndale Elementary boasts a school garden and hoop house run by Youth Farm. Over the last three years the garden has been entirely rebuilt and our partnership greatly expanded. The hoop house is the only one in the entire district and has expanded food production into the early spring and deep into fall. One of my favorite memories is harvesting a case of spinach from the hoop house, then stepping outside into a four inch May blizzard. The garden is surrounded by a beautiful fence hand painted by the Lyndale’s art class with the support of art teacher Ms. Leann Walker.

Community ed coordinator Steve Bonine has been recruiting students and providing space for our after school class for over a decade. In the class, students in grades 3-5 learn basic cooking skills using produce grown right outside the door. During the growing season, students join youth farm during their recess one day a week. This fall students in all grades have had the chance to improve our soil through cover crops and soil amendments and have gotten to harvest black beans, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, parsley, and cilantro. When the work is done we nibble on bits of mint and pick zinnias. Ms. Natasha, Mr. Dickerson, and the rest of the recess staff help keep an eye on the garden every day.

Lyndale Students unloading compost this fall
Lyndale Students unloading compost this fall

Starting last year we’ve been able to join culinary staff for taste tests, spreading our love of kale and bean salads. Those little points of contact get students ever more excited to connect their learning in far to what is on their plate. We even join the school at their evening events like the Lyndale School Carnival that was just held a couple weeks ago. Students, parents, teachers, and younger siblings had the opportunity to eat up some tasty Youth Farm chili and soup with proceeds going right to the school. We also had a cooking activity station with older students making a fresh salsa verde and younger children mixing up their own salad dressing.

Our work wouldn’t be possible without support from school leaders Principal Renee James and Vice-Principal Aaron Arredondo, as well as PTA president Carrie Swanson who is also a youth farm parent. Last year this team worked with parent Megan Elliasen to get a healthy kids grant for the school and garden. The grant supported the addition of drip lines to the garden, saving youth farmers loads of time in the summer.

Thank you so much to Lyndale Elementary for all you do supporting Lyndale students and our partnership.

“He’s like the nice Chef Ramsay”

Nathan Sartain 2

Nathan Sartain is a true professional chef, gifted educator, and also a long time Youth Farm supporter. In the words of Frogtown LEAD staff, Nathan is “like the nice Chef Ramsay”.

Nathan has been inviting Youth Farm staff to his classes to recruit volunteers long enough that he finally decided to work here as the Frogtown Summer Chef in 2013. Prior to adding YF to his resume, Nathan supported the West Side’s “Save the Circulator” fundraiser by organizing volunteer staff and students from St. Paul College’s Culinary Program. The event was significantly more successful because of his efforts.

When looking for a centrally located kitchen to create this years Roots for the Home Team salads, Nathan offered up space at St. Paul College and recruited numerous culinary students to support YF youth in creating tasty salad recipes.

Nathan (far right) helping Youth Farm LEAD finalize the Pizza Salad with Ricardo Abbott from MPS Nutrition dept.  "Every time we cooked with him we learned something new."
Nathan (far right) helping Youth Farm LEAD finalize the Pizza Salad with Ricardo Abbott from MPS Nutrition dept. “Every time we cooked with him we learned something new.”

Most recently, Nathan stepped up this past August and offered his skills and time to support YF’s Frogtown Harvest Festival. He was in the kitchen all day and helped serve at the festival. Well respected by his students and greatly appreciated at Youth Farm we’re so glad he’s a part of the YF community. Thanks again Nathan!

Thanks HECUA


Youth Farm has a vision for our young people rooted in their capacity as leaders, critical thinkers, and food revolutionaries. That vision doesn’t end when a young person becomes a legal adult, and we support their continued development as Farm Stewards and as young adults. Our work in human development and social change is supported by and shared with HECUA.

HECUA offers study programs domestically and internationally and challenge college students to engage with the central problematics of our time. Through HECUA programs, students have the opportunity to not only study social issues such as poverty, inequality, globalization, and food injustice, but to become a change agent in this work. HECUA partners with community organizations like us at Youth Farm to create internships that support our work and are unique opportunities for students.

Many of Youth Farm’s staff are HECUA alumni, and we continue to use the lessons we learned in those programs today. Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to host students from HECUA’s programs in Inequality in America, Environmental Sustainability, Art for Social Change and Agriculture and Justice. HECUA interns have co-taught cooking classes, developed and implemented food distribution plans, supported community events, developed curriculum, and so much more.

Thank you HECUA for all your support!

Tusen Tack Alley Bike Shop!

The Alley Bike Shop is an incredible Whittier neighborhood resource that is also a bit of a hidden secret. The Bike Shop is run out of the garage of Jeff “Nacho” Carlson, who is a youth worker at Village Parks, a community ed coordinator at Whittier Elementary, and a parent of a Youth Farmer.

Hector and Nacho working the stand
Hector and Nacho working the stand


The bike shop is a labor of love and runs whenever Nacho is free or when he can bring in one of the teens from around the neighborhood who help run the Alley: Francisco, Karen, and Sergio. The Alley is more than just a place for people to pop in and buy a new bike or tube. Most of the people who come by the Alley are either homeless or are a parent or a young person wh0 lives within a block or two. The staff focus on teaching the community members the skills to fix their own bikes. Frame and parts are available for free for people who are willing to put in the labor and learning to build their own bike. All the staff are invested in the young people who come by the shop and intentionally engage as positive mentors.

Sergio, Karen, and Muwali ready to go even in snow
Sergio, Karen, and Muwali ready to go even in snow

Last year the Alley and Lyndale Youth Farm teamed up on a program we called “Peas and Pegs.” Youth Farmers worked with Alley staff to fix up the fleet of Youth Farm bikes before the summer program began. If Youth Farmers had bikes that needed repairs they were able to learn how to fix them. And all summer long the Alley was space for us to come by and learn how to make basic repairs from changing a tube to tightening handle bars. We continue to work together every year to build transportation equity for everyone in our neighborhood!

Along the side of the garage there is a catalogue of all the languages spoken by community members who have visited the Alley, all saying “Welcome.” Here is our little chance to say  tusen tack / gracias / merci / thank you!

Thank you Uri & Melissa Camarena!

Uri-melissa-camarenaGenerosity comes in many forms, and for Uri & Melissa Camarena, that form is their remodeled Alfred Pillsbury Mansion in Minneapolis. Youth Farm was lucky enough to be connected to the Camarena’s in 2007 through a board member who had attended an event at their home. Since that time, the Camarena’s have hosted 6 Youth Farm Galas/Events, which have included 3 James Beard Award Nominees, outrageous auction performances by Youth Farm staff, 2 rainstorms, a variety of wine tastings and cocktail hours, and has raised over $168,000 to support our programs in the Twin Cities. In addition to the generosity of their space, the Camarena’s have helped us connect to numerous new donors and supporters. They have never looked publicity, supporting numerous organizations throughout the Twin Cities in addition to Youth Farm.

Thank You Uri and Melissa Camarena for all you have done, and continue to do, to support Youth Farm!

Cultivating a Thank You to Chipotle

ChipotleSometimes partnerships take a while to form, and that has been the case with our growing partnership with Chipotle. Mike Fuller from Chipotle approach me 4 years ago about exploring ways to partner between Youth Farm and Chipotle. We threw around a lot of ideas – – an onsite farm at a store in Uptown, a small benefit event, tours of facilities – – all interesting ideas, but none ever really felt like the right thing. We met a few more times in 2013, bounced around some more ideas, until we came up with the winner – Youth Farm not only helping sponsor the 1st Annual Cultivate event in Minneapolis, but creating a interactive and kid friendly way to engage attendees in better understanding our work and healthy eating. This has been a win for both of us. The event was awesome (see Shanna Woods post from August here) and the financial and promotional support of Youth Farm from Chipotle helps keep our programs thriving.

Thanks Chipotle and Mike Fuller for sticking with us and finding creative ways to support our work!

Jill Wroblewski, setting the bar high!

Jill Wroblewski (center) seen here at our 2012 Annual Gala Event with Lucia Watson (left) and Alex Roberts (right).

How do thank someone who goes so above and beyond your expectations, all the time? Well, we will try here.

Jill Wroblewski joined the Youth Farm board in 2010 after attending our gala event that year and the commitment she has shown since day one is second to none! Jill is the chair of our development committee, a long time Youth Farm supporter, the organizer of many a Youth Farm events, and someone who is always willing to utilize her social networks to find new Youth Farm supporters. Now if one points out to Jill all the amazing work she has done and continues to do for Youth Farm, she usually brushes it off, humbly stating that, “Well, I do love a good party.”, but we all know her commitment to Youth Farm runs deep. Jill is the first to commit to come visit programs and see the impact of the work, and when she gets around our Youth Farmers, she asks sincere questions and truly listens to what they have to say. Even though her work schedule has her traveling throughout the country, she is always open to finding time for Youth Farm staff or other volunteers to make sure our work keeps moving forward. Most importantly though, in my mind, Jill is someone who will ask the hard questions, push the organization to be the best it can be, then be the first one to commit to the work that needs to be done to make that vision a reality. She brings an excitement and passion for our work to every aspect of her involvement, from fun farm dinner events, to a regular board or committee meetings.

All of us at Youth Farm cannot thank Jill Wroblewski enough for all she has done and continues to do for our organization. We are lucky to have you involved. Thank You Jill!