This winter we are very excited to be welcoming Jesus Perez and Zainab Youngmark into roles as south Minneapolis Farm Stewards. As Farm Stewards, Jesus and Zainab are in many ways the face of Youth Farm in our neighborhoods. They will lead all our Youth Farmer and All Stars programs in the Lyndale and Powderhorn programs. You will see them out and about at community events, meetings, and in the gardens. Additionally, Jesus and Zainab will be the summer program managers for Lyndale and Powderhorn, respectively. That means they will be our on-site leaders and the main point of contact for parents.
Both Jesus and Zainab have previous experience with Youth Farm as youth participants, as Project LEAD interns, as summer staff, and as school year staff. Jesus previously spent three years as a Farm Steward, and it is very exciting to welcome him back into the organization in an expanded role. Zainab served as Interim Powderhorn Director last fall, and we are very pleased she will be able to continue her work supporting the Project LEAD and leading programming in Powderhorn Park into the future.
We are immensely proud as an organization to be able to support our young leaders to take on leadership roles in their community and in Youth Farm. As former youth participants and LEAD, Jesus and Zainab have an incredible window into the impact and benefits of our programs. They have deep roots and relationships within south Minneapolis and are incredible role models to their peers and our young people. My deepest thanks and appreciation to them both! To learn more about them in their own words, read up on their biographies here.
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.
Alexis first heard about Youth Farm from his neighbors Anahi and Josefa. He had just moved in next door to a Youth Farm site, and the two sisters shared with him their experience in Youth Farm. Soon after, he went down the street to visit his cousins and saw a Youth Farm site right across the street from them too. His cousins were some of the first Youth Farmers who build the Whittier farm site, and their mother sometimes came in as a guest chef to our summer program. After seeing Youth Farm everywhere and thinking that he didn’t have anything else to do anyway, Alexis signed up for his first summer. He remembers the first weeks as being hot, but worth it and fun.
Now Alexis just finished his third summer at Youth Farm, and his first as a Project LEAD staff. He was worried about how his family would be able to take care of his younger brother, Alan, age 7, while Alexis was at Youth Farm, so they decided to see if Alan could come with. Well, Alan became one of our hardest working Youth Farmers and never failed to have a smile on his face. Alan’s favorite moment of his first summer was getting to spray paint a T-shirt and eat ice cream for his first Fun Friday.
Last Saturday I gave a presentation to the Lyndale Neighborhood Association’s Women’s Leadership Program. Another of Alexis and Alan’s aunts is a member of the cohort, and she shared the story of their involvement. Alan had been brought there by his aunt, and he was able to share Youth Farm produce with the women and other children. All the ninos filled up bags of crisp apples grown right across the street from Alan’s home.
Thank you Alexis and Alan for all you’ve done to contribute to the Lyndale neighborhood. I know we’ve seen some hot summer days, but you both make it worthwhile and fun!
We farm to grow leaders. The core of this youth development work is what we call the Youth Farm Way, in other words our program model and strategies that are built to deliver high quality programming and meaningful outcomes. Taking our mission seriously means engaging in a constant process of improvement, recognizing challenges and developing new methods to ensure we are providing the best programs for young people that we can.
This year we’ve embraced this challenge in partnership with our Project LEAD and Farm Stewards and have begun a series of youth program quality assessments. These assessments are observations build around 60 quality indicators that are nationally recognized. They help us understand the strengths of our program and what staff can do to make our participants’ experiences more meaningful. Our assessment team is built from across our five neighborhoods and have already observed programs in each hood. Once our YPQA data has been compiled, the team will create an improvement plan to share and implement with our 50 youth and adult staff.
Its been incredibly exciting to visit each others programs and see all the different ways Youth Farm looks. We’ve already learned so much from each other, from seeing different youth work styles and from developing relationships across neighborhoods. Thanks to the whole evaluation team for putting in so many hours to make our programs even better!
West Side LEAD are participating in the first ‘651 Youth for Justice’ forum today making great use of their time out of school. We are all currently focusing on identity and the complexities of self, culture, and race. So glad to be here today.
Today, the 4th graders at Nellie Stone Johnson accepted a giant responsibility of taking care of NSJ’s herbs over the winter. They learned about the grow lab lights and how to properly use them. It was easy for them to recall their garden skills from their 3rd grade garden adventures already knowing how important proper water, sunlight, soil and air are to help plants grow.
Everyone got a kick out of the quote from a student passing by in the hall: “That’s bogus, how come we don’t have Youth Farm today.”
Soon, soon. I am certainly looking forward to more garden and cooking adventures this school year…
Our first strawberries came in this week! Nothing tastes quite as sweet as those first hand picked berries right out of our farms. It is a joy to share these fruits with our young people, many of whom have never tasted fresh local strawberries.
The week before summer program held another major highlight. Wednesday all of Youth Farm’s Project LEAD joined together to do farm work across the five neighborhoods. In Lyndale we mulched half of our Horn Towers Farm and finished installing a drip irrigation system. Here are a couple photos from the day. See you next week!
Last weekend over forty of us Project LEAD, Farm Stewards, and Program Directors gathered from across Youth Farm for intensive training and togetherness. Here are a few snapshots of our winter wonderland!