Growing from the ground up with the Youth Farm and Market Project


On a rainy Saturday morning, the Youth Farm and Market Project’s (YFMP) farm stand at the Midtown Market is down to its last edibles. Zoe Haas, one of YFMP’s three program directors, dodges raindrops while she packs up, keeping an eye on the four youngsters hawking what’s left of the fat cucumbers, sleek red peppers and bunched collard greens.

“One hundred forty-one in dollars,” says 9-year-old Ruby, who is counting the day’s take. “Now I gotta count the quarters!”

Ruby is one of more than 300 youngsters between the ages of 9 and 13 navigating the earnest business of growing up with the help of YFMP. This Twin Cities nonprofit, now in its fourteenth year, uses the growing, cooking, eating, and distributing of food as a conduit for learning about urban agriculture and cultural nutrition and for shaping the next generation of community organizers.

A wine- and salsa-tasting benefit is being held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, September 26 at Common Roots Café on 2558 Lyndale Avenue South. Etica Fair Trade Wines will provide libations; the kids will be making the salsa. Go to for more information, or call 612.872.4226.

“Farming is at the center,” said Gunnar Liden, YFMP’s executive director. “The focus is on what they can share through food.”

YFMP originated in the Lyndale neighborhood in 1995 when local resident David Brandt and ten kids started a garden plot. In 2000, YFMP expanded into Powderhorn Park and the west side of St. Paul—all neighborhoods where a strong community organizational base was already in place that could readily partner with YFMP.

Each neighborhood program has a unique relationship with its community: In Lyndale, 15 families bought shares this summer and received fresh vegetables for eight weeks; Powderhorn Park runs a produce stand at Midtown Market; and the St. Paul program sells wholesale to El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul’s Latino community.

YFMP was named a “local food hero and best nonprofit” in March 2008 by Edible Twin Cities magazine.

So what’s the logical offshoot of all that youthful enthusiasm and terrific produce?

Did I hear someone say—salsa? Oh, yes!

Plans are in the works to create and market YFMP salsa, said Liden, and ”take it to scale” next summer. Creating this marketable, added-value product is, as he puts it, “a natural progression for the organization.”

Roxanne Bergeron lives in south Minneapolis. She is an independent journalist and freelance writer for the Twin Cities Daily Planet and The Bridge newspaper.