New City Farm Youth Gardening & Cooking Club Education Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2017: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2019
Grant Recipient: New City Neighbors
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Alaina Dobkowski
New City Neighbors


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: mentoring, youth education
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development


    Our original project abstract: Forty six youth will be educated in sustainable vegetable growing and value added production. Four experienced high school staff who have worked at our 3-acre CSA urban farm for 2 years will lead a summer garden club and cooking club for elementary youth. The clubs will teach elementary youth to grow and cook produce from a 10 X 20 ft. garden plot. Ten middle school students will participate in the summer apprenticeship program, working alongside high school staff. Twelve additional high school youth will be hired for our farm and will learn sustainable agriculture through hands-on learning.

    2017 results: Seventy six youth were involved in different forms of sustainable vegetable growing and value-added production. Eight high school student staff led gardening and cooking clubs over the course of the spring and summer. Fifty elementary youth grew and cooked produce in our community garden plot, as well as from our urban farm (over the spring and summer). Ten middle school students harvested produce from our farm and worked alongside high school staff to prepare and sell farm-to-table value-added products in our new cafe. Eight additional high school staff (who are not already included in the number who led clubs) were hired to work on the farm, and two additional high school staff were hired to work as managers in the cafe. 

    As we move forward we are very aware that our high school leaders needed more support in order to run their clubs and programs well. We launched a cafe (selling soups, salads, wood-fired pizzas, and baked goods all made from farm produce) in 2017 without adding any adult staff. We relied heavily on our high school leaders and managers. They did an incredible job, but it became apparent that we needed more adult staff to provide supervision and support. We plan to add additional staff in the coming year that will more directly supervise these programs. 

    2018 results: We continued with our cooking and gardening clubs but this year provided more support to our summer club through a partnership with MSU Extension. They led our gardening club, working alongside our high school staff. A volunteer led our cooking club with high school staff. This resulted in more support and better programming. Overall, from May-August in 2018, 63 youth were involved in cooking or gardening at our location. We did not need as much funding for supplies as we originally budgeted for, so we put the additional funds to use towards our high school student leaders' wages. 

    Project objectives:

    1. Empower youth in our neighborhood to reach their full potential through youth programming, youth employment opportunities, community gardening, and growing local food. This objective was accomplished in 2017 and continued into 2018.
    2. Develop student employees’ business, cooking, and gardening skills by involving them in every aspect of our CSA farm operation and value added cafe. This objective was accomplished in 2017 and continued into 2018.
    3. Introduce elementary and middle school students to sustainable agriculture through lessons taught by high school students employees. This objective was accomplished in 2017 and continued into 2018. In 2018 we had more support by developing a partnership with MSU Extension.
    4. Extend impact of program to wider community through presentations by youth farm managers to other farmers and youth educators, to their schools, and in the form of a YouTube video of their work shared via social media. This objective was not accomplished in year one of this grant, but in year two we were able to take our garden club leaders to do presentations to youth at Ada Congregational Church. They led lessons on gardening, vegetables, and healthy food choices (including taste testing). Students also participated in the Michigan Good Food Summit this year, and hope to submit a proposal to lead a workshop next year. We have not done the video series as a part of this project, as it was not something that fit our needs at this time. 
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.