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.
Spring is a busy time over here on the West Side! Our middle schoolers at Humboldt and OWL are seeding in the greenhouse, transplanting, and sprucing things up with spray paint. We continue to cook each Wednesday — our most recent class was a Chopped competition with four competing teams! The winning team prepared breaded and fried sweet pepper spears, a mustard green pesto, a cheese sauce, and homemade tortilla chips.
This Saturday, our first work group of the season came out to Robert St farm to help us flip beds, spread compost, and build a trellis for peas and sweet potatoes. We used the entire pile of compost across 10 beds. Time for another compost delivery. Thank you Conservation Corps for your hard work and awesome ninja-playing skills!
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.
The seasons are turning and we’re celebrating here at Youth Farm with food and baby plants. Last week we said goodbye to a youth who has been in our afterschool cooking class since the first day last fall. We will miss her dearly. The greenhouse is bustling – leeks, onions, swiss chard, and the like have already begun sprouting. And we got creative last week in our Wellstone community class with make-your-own pizzas, including a dessert pizza creation by LEAD Heaven. Warm weather here we come…
Spring has sprung for Youth Farm with the start of seeding in the greenhouse! Last week a service group from River’s Edge Academy helped us to seed our first plants and we eagerly await their sprouting. Meanwhile, the middle schoolers at Humboldt and OWL have finished the construction of a big shelf to hold all of our soon-to-be plants. And we continue to cook big community meals at the Wellstone Center on Tuesday evenings.
We made dessert apple empanadas in our Humboldt/OWL cooking class today! Htoo Eh Say won the title of “Empanada Champion” for making the most beautiful empanada in the group. Mmm, sometimes Mondays call for sweet treats.
The middle schoolers at Humboldt and OWL are back at it on the West Side, preparing salsas, baking zucchini and carrot muffins, and playing lots of games. The farms may be quiet and cold, but we are keeping things fresh in the kitchen. Happy New Year to all!
The Youth Farmers in our Humboldt/OWL cooking class have been cooking up a storm every Monday and Wednesday, so you can thank them for the snow! We recently made a big batch of Korean Black Noodles and rolled a bunch of sushi. Good food, good folks.
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
West Side Youth Farm has had a fantastic summer so far and as Youth Farm continues into week seven there is new leadership budding. This year, the West Side program has experienced the change that comes as our program grows and our leaders move into other opportunities. We all felt this bitter-sweetness together when we said goodbye to long time program participant and Farm Steward Alice Martin this summer. Alice started in the program as a Youth Farmer and has helped the organization develop the Farm Stewards model. She has been an inspiring contributor to the program and is well loved by our community partners on the West Side where she could be found in cooking classes and helping run our greenhouse. Staff and youth alike will miss Alice’s adaptable nature and her ability to connect with youth when they are struggling. We will miss her greatly but we are excited to wish her well as she moves to Hawaii to study and surely do great things. Thanks for all you have done Alice!