PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The youth participated in classroom time and in the garden to learn growing methods and techniques. The youth participated in the construction and installation of their new garden. The garden makeover included 4 herb beds and 6 large garden beds. Students along with community volunteers installed over 20 yards of soil and mulch to surround the garden beds. We hired an educator who provided classroom time and hands-on interaction with the youth. Students learned about water conservation using rain barrels. Additionally, they learned about climate and the type of plants that can grow in northeast Ohio and when. In the garden they learned about soil types, proper watering of plants, weeds, composting, planting schemes, etc.
In addition to classroom and garden engagement, we found visitation with other growers in the community was most effective. These learning experiences gave the youth another perspective on how mature gardens look. This set the tone for long term goal setting amongst the young growers. The youth were enthused about all the possibilities of how gardens can look and be beneficial to the residents in their community.
We met all our project goals but one goal stood out; during harvest we had the youth harvest food from their garden and another community garden to sell during the growing season at Gateway 105 Farmers’ market. They learned how to create a table display to present their food to sell. They learned how to talk to customers and they learned how to collect money. Most importantly they learned how to work as a team. They split up the responsibilities so they could operate a successful market stand.
We work with youth every year in the community and this was the 2nd year working with this group of youth. One of our larger growing spaces in the community is where we engage the youth the most. This area is perfect for learning different growing methods. What we have done is introduce a new growing method each year for the students. We now use four styles of growing: raised beds, in ground, garden soxx and vertical growing. This year we would like to introduce a hoop house.
In the Glenville neighborhood we have an abundance of sandy soil because our growing location is one mile from Lake Erie, and history has shown us the area we are growing in currently was once part of Lake Erie. This makes growing in this space challenging but in a good way. This gives us the opportunity to teach children some interesting soil remediation methods and at the same time gives them a history lesson about their community. Our organization will always work with youth to educate them on growing food.
- Launch the Healthy Growing, Healthy Eating youth gardening program
- Teach children how to start and grow and maintain an environmentally and financially sustainable gardening enterprise.
- Teach them how food systems work
- Teach youth how to sell their produce.
- It was important to find an educator who used a youth friendly curriculum and who would be good at working with youth.
- It was important to find people who lived in the neighborhood who could educate the youth on what they did in their community and give the youth inspiration as well.
- Creating an opportunity for the youth to be part of the construction of their new garden space gave them a better vested interest in growing food.
- Creating a realistic timeline that we knew would be easy to follow and not get off track.
- We made sure we had good resources that were takeaways for the youth and their families.
- The youth attended cooking demonstrations at the Farmers Market to learn how to prepare the food they were growing and actually experience the flavor of the food in a way different than they expected.
- Incorporating accent components to growing and the curriculum such as composting and rain barrels.
People and Role
- Veroncia Walton, Educator
- Alisha Conway, Intern – Garden Assistant
- Erica Robinson, Project Manager
- Gloria Jalil, Market Gardener
- Sandra Robertson, Urban Gardner
- Linda Zolten Woods, Rain Barrel Education
Our approach to sustainable growing was to teach the youth a skill they can rely on to eat and make a profit. They also learned what impacts growing food has on the environment. The program consisted of 20 youth that live in a low-income housing complex together and their ages range from 4 to14 years old.
We conducted surveys after each session to see if the youth were retaining what they learned. The youth were able to conduct their own assessments of the progress they were making by tracking garden growth in a garden journal we created. The youth were responsible for keeping a written plant inventory and had to journal their experiences in the garden.
One thing that has been consistent about working with youth is that the younger they are the more eager they are to learn about food production. I learned how to make growing interesting for the older kids by giving them more of a big brother, big sister role with the younger youth. Additionally the older youth are afraid to lead a group of their peers so we work on leadership skills and techniques to get them comfortable with leading a group of their peers. Fields trips are key to a successful summer program.
The results were better than expected. To others trying a similar project, we would make no changes, just keep an open mind and heart to working with youth. It builds trust and they will open up to you once their layers are peeled back.
We wanted to showcase the food the youth grew at the garden so we advertised to the community when the youth would be at the farmers market to sell the food so they could encourage the youth and purchase their produce.
- Youth Selling Products at Farmers Market – Every Friday in July 2016 from 3pm-7pm we sent out Robo Calls to community members letting them know about the market and the youth selling vegetables.
We didn’t have any media coverage for the youth except our own display of the youth on our website and social media sites. In the future we will invite the media out to showcase what our youth are doing in their community.