In 1995, the Youth Farm and Market Project (YFMP) started on a small plot of land in the Lyndale neighborhood in south Minneapolis. Ten neighborhood youth worked to grow, harvest, and sell produce at two youth-run neighborhood markets. Since then, the program has evolved from an upstart community gardening program into a youth development organization which works for local food access, environmental stewardship, youth empowerment, and advancement of cultural expression.
They’re still farming their urban plot in the Lyndale neighborhood in addition to working in the Powderhorn neighborhood in Minneapolis and the West Side neighborhood in St. Paul. This summer, YFMP expanded again to include the Hawthorne neighborhood in north Minneapolis (at the Nellie Stone Johnson School on the corner of Bryant Ave. and 26th Ave. N) and Frogtown in St. Paul (at the Church of St. Agnes on the corner of W. Thomas Ave. and N. Kent St.).
“With recent work and research to define and measure the outcomes of our work, and requests from multiple neighborhoods interested in reaching youth in their area through our engagement model, the timing is perfect for this expansion,” says Gunnar Liden, executive director of YFMP. “We believe there is great opportunity right now for an organization like ours that combines youth engagement with a strong connection to community, to now start partnering with residents, organizations, and most importantly, youth of these neighborhoods to make positive change.”
The Youth Farm and Market Project provides year-round, youth development programming for over 500 youths ages 9-18. Their progressive programming model focuses on utilizing experiential education and training, urban agriculture, gardens, and greenhouses to build youth leadership. As youth move through the program, they not only learn basic farming and cooking skills, but also how to work well with others, mentor younger students, and build a sense of community.
Expansion work began this spring in Hawthorne and in mid-summer in Frogtown. Through this expansion, YFMP hopes to:
- Engage an additional 300 youths each year in summer and after school programs in Hawthorne and Frogtown by 2014.
- Develop 20 additional Project LEAD staff (youth ages 14-18 that act as mentors for younger participants).
- Expand the Farm Specialists program for graduates (ages 19-24) of YFMP to allow for an increased focus on employment, leadership, and micro-enterprise within urban communities.
- Produce grown in these two neighborhoods will reach at least 100 residents in each neighborhood with all farming, harvesting, and distribution efforts guided by youth-led action research around food needs in each community.
For the Youth Farm and Market Project, food – and the way you grow, sell, cook, and eat it –provides the foundation for establishing a healthy personal lifestyle as well as strengthening the surrounding community. “Our work results in youth who have demonstrated strong works skills and are engaged in real and meaningful community work, who eat and appreciate a variety of healthy foods, who understand and can teach the processes of rowing produce, who are physically active, and who are surrounded by supportive adults and more engaged communities,” says Liden.
If you live in one of these neighborhoods and want to learn more about participating or volunteering, visit the Youth Farm and Market Project’s web site: http://youthfarm.net
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.