Snapshots of St. Paul Youth Farm


From top left clockwise: West Side Youth Farmers meet with LEAD staff Heaven to plan out afternoon focus groups, Frogtown bikers head off to morning garden time, West Side youth enjoy an afternoon get you know you game, and Frogtown YF plays capture the flag at new partner site Frogtown Farms.

Meet the St. Paul Farm Stewards!

As we wrap up our first week of summer program, we are celebrating by hosting a family day on the West Side, visiting our new partners Frogtown Farm, visiting with former Lyndale Farm Steward Shanna, and eating Pad Thai for lunch! We are honored to have witnessed the leadership of our Farm Stewards this week as they led summer program. For the last round of staff introductions, please meet your St. Paul Farm Stewards Alice Martin, Teng Lee, and AJ Zozulin!

Alice has been part of Youth Farm for nearly as long as Youth Farm has been on the West Side. This is her 16th summer!  She has played almost every role at Youth Farm from Project LEAD to Farm Steward to Summer Chef. She brings with her not only a passion for the work, but also a kind heart and gentle personality that connects deeply with the youth she serves. She, alongside Teng Lee and a cohort of other young adults, developed Youth Farm’s Farm Steward Program. She has played an integral role on the West Side most recently serving as the Interim Director this year. Alice is currently the Greenhouse Manager and Summer Staff on the West Side. Learn more about Alice and how to contact her here.

Teng first jumped on board with Youth Farm in 2011 as a summer staff. He brought with him years of gardening experience from partner organization Urban Roots. During his first year, he worked alongside fellow Farm Steward Alice and a cohort of other young adults to develop Youth Farm’s Farm Steward Program. In addition to his experience at Youth Farm, Teng also works in childcare and community organizing. He bring with him contagious energy, thoughtfulness, and a true passion for the youth he engages with. Teng is the Summer Program Manager for the West Side neighborhood and is the on-site contact for youth and families in that program. Learn more about Teng here.

AJ joined the Youth Farm team in 2011, Youth Farm’s first summer in the Frogtown Neighborhood. He has returned year after year as a summer staff and returns this year as a Farm Steward and Summer Program Manager in the Frogtown Neighborhood. AJ brings with him his strong organization and leadership skills, a passion for food and farming (he also works at Trotter’s Cafe, a cafe that has long supported local, fresh food), and a strong desire to learn from the youth he serves. AJ is the Summer Program Manager for the Frogtown Neighborhood and is the on-site contact for youth and families in that program. Learn more about AJ here.



AJ’s enthusiasm for lunch leaves him in shock!
Farm Stewards Teng, Jesus, and Alice
Alice and her signature brightly colored hair prep the lettuce harvest with the West Side crew.
AJ works in Frogtown Youth Farm’s first farm site.

Youth Farm Summer #22 has started!

IMG_0213Our 22nd summer is just underway across our Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods and what better way to start things off than with an amazing lunch consisting of Spanakopita, Greek Salad, home made hummus, and pita bread. As lunch was wrapping up, one Youth Farmer was on their 5th salad helping!

Meet our Amazing Staff!

As we gear up for our 22nd summer, we at Youth Farm want to take a moment to reintroduce and acknowledge our staff that dedicate so much time, expertise, and passion to the youth and families in our Youth Farm neighborhoods.

Meet Director of St. Paul Programs Sarah Sarzoza and Director of South Minneapolis Programs Phil Rooney!

Sarah joined the Youth Farm team 2 years ago as our Frogtown Program Director. She brought with her a wealth of experience in youth development and community organizing as well as a love for the neighborhood she grew up in (Frogtown). In her new role as Director of St. Paul programs, Sarah is the first point of contact for families and community partners in our West Side and Frogtown Neighborhoods. Additionally, her role will focus on leadership development and training in both Frogtown and the West Side. Learn more about Sarah and how to contact her here

Phil is entering his 10th summer with Youth Farm. He began his work with Youth Farm on the West Side and served as the Lyndale Program Director for 6 years prior to becoming Director of South Minneapolis Programs. In addition to his experience at Youth Farm, Phil brings with him strong leadership and youth development experience. In his role as Director of South Minneapolis Programs, Phil is the first point of contact for families and community partners in our Powderhorn and Lyndale Neighborhoods. Additionally, his role will focus on leadership development and training in both Powderhorn and Lyndale. Learn more about Phil and how to contact him here.

We are honored that Phil and Sarah choose to share their talents with Youth Farm and are excited to have their leadership. Look for them throughout their Youth Farm neighborhoods next week as we start our summer program!


Sarah and the Frogtown crew relax (with some chickens!) after a day of farm work.
Phil demonstrates transplanting in Youth Farm’s Powerhorn Park garden

Calla-a passion for all things food

Calla started at Youth Farm as a participant in the West Side summer program in 2012. She spent her first day that summer looking bored, not participating, and projecting a “too cool” persona. After transitioning to the All-Star group later that week her interests, skills, and passions started to show.  That summer she took on every leadership opportunity available to her. She then applied to be a part of the LEAD program and quickly became an active member of the West Side staff team.

Calla has a passion for all things related to food and especially for being in the Youth Farm kitchen.  Her dedication to cooking is apparent to anyone who has had the pleasure of working through a menu with her. This past summer Calla contributed to our program’s success in numerous ways, most notably as the direct apprentice to our summer chef and also as an activity group leader. She started her days in the kitchen washing and chopping produce, preparing work stations, and teaching youth as young as 9 years old how to cook. Calla, along with the summer Chef and 4-5 youth prepared the lunches that fueled our summer program. A program that regularly had 70 or more youth and staff, many of them lining up immediately for seconds. After lunch she transitioned to leading an afternoon activity group called “The Adventurers”. To help create a welcoming community, a cornerstone of good youth work, Calla created individual journals for each of the youth in her group so they could track their summer time learning and fun.

Calla is graduating this year from Highland Park Senior High School in St. Paul.  This fall Calla will be enrolled at the University of Minnesota, specifically in the Food Systems program within the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences..  We wish her the best and look forward to her returning to YF to share her new knowledge.  

Calla, hiding behind some Youth Farm bell peppers as she works her magic in the kitchen



*This post is part of a series of posts recognizing Youth Farm’s graduating seniors. It was written by former West Side Program Director Tyler Berres*

Jack-an exceptional leader (and dodgeball player)!

Like many Youth Farmers, Jack found his way to the garden by following the footsteps of his older brother.  It was nearly 10 years ago when I met the 9 year old version of Jack. He had very long hair and was full of energy, the kind of energy that got him chosen first for dodgeball games. Jack continued with YF for each summer until he was too old to participate. Wanting to contribute to the program that supported him, he then applied to be an intern and and a member of our summer staff team. Jack was clearly one of our top candidates, he showed maturity, thoughtfulness and patience; all essential skills for the work Youth Farm does.  

Jack has worked at YF for the past three and a half years, over that time he has grown in all aspects of his role and as a person as well. He connects with the youth we work with, his community, and his coworkers in authentic ways. Jack is extremely reliable, consistent, and has shown perseverance throughout his life. He balances his school work, jobs, health, and art.  

At Youth Farm, Jack shows exceptional leadership qualities. His co-workers and classmates look to him for guidance, advice, and support. He has applied and been accepted into leadership positions at school and work.  His ability to rally youth and his peers around a task is impressive: from getting a group of 9 year-olds to clean up a workspace in the kitchen or garden, to offering supportive words during a difficult time.  

Now that Jack has graduated he will be heading to New Jersey to pursue his passion in glass art at Salem Community College. His glass skills became apparent a few years ago when his constantly changing necklace pieces became a regular topic of discussion and admiration from everyone at Youth Farm.  It was even more apparent when others were wearing pieces he made as well. His pride and confidence in his work justifiably grew and he has since became a regular art vendor at the West Side Farmer’s Market.  You can check out some of his current work here.  We all at YF wish him well in the next stage of his life and are excited that he will be a part of the West Side team this summer.

Jack demonstrating thoughtfulness in our Wellstone Center cooking class

*This post is part of a series of posts recognizing Youth Farm’s graduating seniors. It was written by former West Side Program Director Tyler Berres*

Youth Farm is hiring

Passionate about youth development? Come join our team! Hiring now for West Side Program Manager. Job description and application information can be found here.

Youth Farm!

As the weather starts to get colder (sort of), it is nice to have reasons to think back to the awesome summer we had this year at Youth Farm. We were honored to have Jeffrey Zupfer, a Youth Farm parent and West Side resident, come and work with some of our Youth Farmers and produce a short video and song for Youth Farm. We are so very thankful to Jeff and all the West Side Youth Farmers for putting together a great video and song.


Tyler at our most recent event on the West Side.
Tyler at our most recent event on the West Side.

There are ebbs and flows of a workplace that can be predictable, even feel normal, but saying good bye to amazing staff members never gets easy. After a combined 15 years at Youth Farm is some capacity or another, we bid Tyler Berres farewell this week. This transition is bitter sweet for me personally, as I met Tyler in 1999 when he was 12, and a 7th grader at Humboldt Jr. High. As a part of his science class, he helped design and build our West Side Farmsite in my first year at Youth Farm. He has been a participant, a Project LEAD, a youth Board Member, a summer staff, an assistant Program Director and a Program Director – he actually has done it all at Youth Farm. Beyond my memories and experiences with Tyler at Youth Farm, I feel lucky that many other experiences stick out to me – following his High School Soccer teams run to the State Championship game, his High School Graduation, his wedding, and many more – he is a true friend.  As sad as I and other are that he is moving on, this building of leaders and leadership is exactly what we strive for at Youth Farm. Tyler could not have summed this up better than in his letter to partners and families that he sent earlier this week:

“Over the past 4 years I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in one of my dream jobs as West Side Program Director, and like the natural changes of the season it is time for a natural personal change as well. Today is my last day at Youth Farm as the West Side Program Director.  

(Here’s a fun look back at my last 4 years

Starting this Thursday I will be starting a new position with St. Paul Public Schools as a Program Assistant within the department of Community Education. A position with lots of promise and opportunity for continued growth.  

This was a very difficult decision to make for so many reason but mostly because I grew up at Youth Farm. Youth Farm has played a major role in my personal and professional development. I’m very proud of the person I am today and I credit a large portion of that to the people, values, and community that make up Youth Farm, St. Paul’s West Side, and the Twin Cities network of mission driven people and organizations.”

What more could we ask for as an organization than to have this sort or role in young peoples lives and to see them take on new and exciting challenges with “opportunity for continued growth.”

Tyler has gone from youth participant at Youth Farm in its early years to a close personal friend of mine – what he has brought to Youth Farm and the youth farmers is amazing, I am just glad he has brought me something immeasurable – lifelong friendship.

Thank you Tyler!

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!