Downtown Greens Youth Farm Project
The Duff McDuff Green, Jr. Fund of The Community Foundation supported Downtown Greens Community Greenspace's Youth Farm Program for the 2018 growing season.
Downtown Greens reports they are proud of how this program is growing. The 2018 growing season was a resounding success. For 2018, the program added a week-long summer camp program that engaged three young refugees from Afghanistan (and many of their family members) who had not previously participated in garden programs.
The Youth Farm Program is a free program for local third, fourth and fifth grade children from the low-income housing development adjacent to Downtown Greens, and the surrounding community. It includes weekly outdoor meetings where the young farmers tend their garden and take home produce; participate in nature crafts, games, and environmental presentations; and enjoy a healthful snack. The program also includes a monthly family dinner where participants prepare produce from their garden alongside guest chefs, and a monthly trip to the Farmer's Market where young farmers sell produce and build confidence and skills in entrepreneurship, math, communication, and responsibility.
Through the Youth Farm Program shy, unsure children blossom into courageous and articulate young gardeners and entrepreneurs. Instead of watching television after school, you can now see Youth Farm Program participants and their friends out exploring the gardens. They feel comfortable visiting the Downtown Greens office and spending time with adults who care about them. The participants are proud and enthusiastic to show off the veggies and herbs they have grown, and they beam with confidence and excitement when it comes time to cook meals for their friends and family members. At the monthly farmers market booth, children are outgoing, confident, and knowledgeable. They differentiate between four different types of basil for sale and they know the names of all the vegetables they worked to grow and harvest. They are also quick to point out taste favorites, as they have all tried everything they have grown!
While all children are welcome, Downtown Greens focuses on recruiting and retaining a majority of children from the neighboring low-income housing development Hazel Hill Apartments which contains 145 Section-8 rent-controlled units and around 180 children. Between after-school programs, programs at Head Start programs, Youth Garden Club and the Youth Farm Program, Downtown Greens delivered positive and safe enrichment to 178 children in 2018.
The Community Foundation's grant support covered Youth Farm Program staff and gardening supplies, supplies for the operation of the monthly farmers market booth, snacks, and craft supplies. Youth Farm Program employs a part time Farm Manager and Educator, as well as a gardener from the neighborhood and two high school student interns. The gardener was the parent of two program participants who brought a new gardening perspective to the team, as she learned her gardening skills in Vietnam. The two teens also reside in neighboring low income housing, with one returning to Downtown Greens following a 2017 summer internship.