This Sunday Lyndale Farm Stewards will be hosting the first in a series of Community Harvest Days. Everyone is welcome to meet us from 1-3pm at Lyndale School (corner of pillsbury ave & 34th st) to harvest produce for your family.
By Nora Knutson
The leaves are slowly making their piles beneath the trees, and as we fade in to fall, it’s a good time for reflection on the summer and preparation for the school year. This summer flew by (as is customary with Minnesota summers and Youth Farm Summer Programs)! As one of the three Lyndale neighborhood Farm Stewards, I think we had a great summer program, with fun games, lots of laughs, good meals, beautiful weekly shares of produce, and of course some big ol’ piles of rich compost. And as with any youth farm summer (or any summer youth program, for that matter), of course, there were challenges, lessons learned, and room for improvement. I also think, with this being the second year of the Farm Steward positions, we have a great opportunity for implementing new ideas, perfecting old strategies, and overall continuing the improvement of the program.
One of my goals for the next season is to increase our veggie production in the gardens, and this new hoop house (like a greenhouse) we’re building at the Lyndale School garden is going to be a huge part of that, as it will extend the growing season for a variety of crops and allow us to start more plants from seed. I also think that there is a lot of room for improvement and expansion with the ways we distribute and use our food, such as increasing the quality of the Buying Club Share program, returning to farmers markets, including even more veggies from the garden in lunch, and getting food to all the kids in the program weekly for free.
I am so so excited to be able to work with Youth Farm through out the school year; to lead an after school program with the kids at Lyndale school, and to be a part of planning and organizing our program! I feel very lucky to have this job, and I am looking forward to my first full year of working on the same farm, and to working with Shanna and Jesus and really delving in to the Farm Steward position.
Today I am mentally preparing myself for this year, and the next four years, as I start at the University of Minnesota (as a freshman with some credit), and as I begin working at butter bakery and cafe, and as the fall season farm steward work really starts. I have three e-mail accounts and a weekly schedule (two part time jobs and full time school) and two white boards/one bulletin board for to-do lists. Not to mention that I’m going to be in Minnesota for the whole year (ahem winter) for the first time in a while. I am going to be moving at a very different pace and staying in the same place more than i have been for the past two years, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be this busy with classes that are going to expand my mind and communities that are going to expand my social network and jobs that are going to expand my skills/knowledge/experience and personal projects (i.e. art) that I hope will give me more freedom of expression.
so much expansion…i just might EXPLODE!
Happy Labor Day!
-Nora Marie Mahto Knutson
By Shanna Woods, Farm Steward
Since the age of eight I have been with Youth Farm. My evolution of involvement began as a youth farmer, to a Youth Farm Allstar, and then transitioned into a LEAD staff, and now a Farm Steward. Between the path of being a LEAD staff and Farm Steward I had checked out service and youth development in different capacities while always maintaining appreciation for the Youth Farm program.
This summer I returned back to Youth Farm after two years. It was awesome seeing how the program has maintained and enhanced its ability to teach urban youth the importance of developing healthy eating choices and knowing the origin of where their produce is from. This year was my first year of being an adult staff. I had the awesome opportunity to work the Allstars focus group.
The Allstars is an activity grouped geared toward the older youth of ages 12-14. The focus of the Allstars group is to provide fun opportunities to gain leadership, critical thinking, teamwork, and personal development skills. The Allstars received chances to provide input in operational planning of the program and contribution in community development events in their neighborhood. The Allstars had a a few big projects this summer. They coordinated a watered themed Fun Friday event for all the Youth Farmer with different games. They assisted with planning a community event alongside Lyndale Neighborhood Association. The event was restoring a community playground call Pocket Park that was in much need of attention and beautifying.
I was astonished at the ideas the young leaders had in mind for their different assigned tasks through the summer. I highly enjoyed the thoughtful conversations and discusses that took place on concepts of respect and cooperation. It was a blast to keep up with their energetic and fun spirits in games and downtime. I was very happy to work with a smart group of youth and future leaders of Youth Farm.
Intermedia Arts’ Our Turn youth program visited the Lyndale crew back in April for a garden tour and to learn about our work. There wasn’t much in the garden yet, but here are Jesus, Niani, and Nazeem talking about what they do at YFMP and how it connects to food justice.
YFMP is honored to be one of only 27 organizations nation-wide to be awarded a 2011 Community Foods Project grant through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). While we alluded to it in our winter fundraising appeal, YFMP’s proposal focuses on Creating a youth led food movement in the Twin Cities by increasing food production and neighborhood capacity in low income neighborhoods. The majority of this movement building focuses on YFMP’s expansion efforts in the Hawthorne Neighborhood in N. Minneapolis and the Frogtown Neighborhood in St. Paul, as well as supporting the creation of our next stage of our progressive programming model, Farm Stewards.
YFMP’s expansion efforts in Hawthorne and Frogtown aim to reach an additional 300 youth and double our produce output by 2014. But a food movement is more than just numbers of youth and pounds of local produce, it’s about culture change; something that does not happen overnight and does not happen by inserting oneself into the food conversation. YFMP’s progress in Lyndale, Powderhorn, and the West Side over the last decade has been successful by putting youth in positions to have tangible impact on their neighborhood through food. That impact happens not just through the thousands of pounds of food distributed in each neighborhood, but through neighborhood level planning and leadership both in and outside of YFMP. We look forward to engaging the youths of the Frogtown and Hawthorne neighborhoods in a way that puts their ideas, solutions, creativity and hard work at the forefront of their neighborhood.
YFMP’s Farm Stewards Program started in October 2011 and is a natural extension of our progressive programming model, providing YFMP “graduates” ages 19-24 with employment and professional development opportunities after high school focusing on leadership and food justice. Farm Stewards work year-round, growing and distributing food via greenhouses, hoop houses, and eventually on the farms in all five neighborhoods, although right now they are focused on West Side and Lyndale. Additionally, Farm Stewards teach weekly classes allowing YFMP to serve more youth. Not only are Farm Stewards entrepreneurs who engage in food systems directly through the business of growing and selling commercially viable specialty crops, they are advocates for food access and justice in each neighborhood by honing community organizing and leadership skills.
The full press release from the USDA can be found here.
Even in winter Youth Farm is busy all day everyday! Here are a set of photos all snapped on Thursday February 24th. The Farm Stewards were in our Cherokee School Greenhouse reviewing the growth of onion starts, micro greens, and more. Later that night we had a crew of over 20 Lyndale Youth Farmers cooking up their dinner of veggie enchiladas, cactus bread, and a salad at Zion Church. I snapped some shots of our enchilada crew at work.
This weekend our Farm Stewards attended the Minnesota Food Association’s Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference. The Farm Stewards attended workshops ranging from the history of farming in Minnesota, sustainable agriculture, and even how to get started with chickens. Teng Lee was even written up in the Star Tribune’s coverage of the event! Check out the article.
Teng Lee, one of our Farm Stewards, took some photos this week around the greenhouse. Take a peek and see what’s growing at Youth Farm!