Using the phrase “the Youth Farm family” is always intentional and St. Paul Project LEAD Eliza Thompson is a perfect example of that. When she was just eight years old she followed in her older sister’s footsteps and started attending Youth Farm programming. Not only do many youth attend programming as a family, they also build connections with other families in their neighborhoods to build the larger Youth Farm family.

The Thompson sisters had a long history with Youth Farm even before they got involved with direct programming, as their father was, and still is, the pastor at St. Stephanus Lutheran Church in Frogtown. For years, the church has shared their kitchen space with Youth Farm, so the entire Thompson family has long been used to Youth Farmers buzzing around them.

“It was pretty inevitable for me to get involved with Youth Farm because it had been part of my life for so long,” Eliza said. “I’ve chosen to stay involved though because I truly love gardening and cooking. It is really cool to see the plants we grow turned into meals that we can serve to other people.”

Over the years, Eliza and her family have created many memories at Youth Farm. When asked what her favorite memory has been, she said, “Oh man, there’s so many of them. I’ve always loved cooking for the rest of the kids at program during the summer. Then, during the school year I remember that some of my friends from elementary school and I would ride our bikes to the Pierce Butler farm, work in the garden for a while, and then play games and be kids, always spraying each other with the hose and just having fun.”

Although there’s no doubt that Eliza will continue to make fun memories at Youth Farm, she has also taken on more responsibility with her role as a Project LEAD. 

“I just started ninth grade at Great River School which means I am now old enough to be a Project LEAD,” Eliza said. “It was a natural transition and I am excited to make more decisions. Now instead of helping LEAD staff at programs and following their example, I am one of those staff members. Although I just started this position, through the hiring process I have already learned how to fill out a job application, interview, and complete tax forms.”

As she begins her high school career alongside her LEAD staff role at Youth Farm, Eliza is starting to think about her interests and how they might shape her future. 

“I have no idea what I want to do yet when I graduate high school, but I have a lot of things I’m interested in,” Eliza said. “I really love riding and fixing bikes and I actually learned a lot about fixing them through people at Youth Farm. I also love reading, cooking, and gardening. Through Youth Farm I have learned a lot about maintaining a garden and harvesting food safely and at home I do a lot of cooking. I don’t know where all of these things will lead me, but I am sure over the next few years I’ll begin to find out.”

As our newest Project LEAD hire, Eliza is looking forward to learning more and becoming one of the role models she has always looked up to.