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

    Proposal abstract:

    Project Abstract

    46 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.

    Detailed Project Plan and Timeline

    Socially Responsible:
    New City Farm is a social enterprise that is a part of New City Neighbors, a non-profit dedicated to empowering youth in our neighborhood to reach their full potential. We improve the quality of life of our neighborhood through youth programming, youth employment opportunities, community gardening, and growing local food. New City Neighbors programs include:
    -community garden allowing 30 families to grow their own food
    -elementary student summer day camp serving a total of 30 students
    -afterschool program serving 30 students
    -summer job skills apprenticeship program for middle school students serving 10 students
    -high school student employment opportunities

    *12 student employees during the summer at New City Farm
    *4 student manager during the summer at New City Farm
    *6 student employees during the academic year at New City Farm *10 student employees over the year for elementary programs

    New City Farm hires 12 high school student employees from our neighborhood each summer. Six of those students continue as employees for the following academic year. In 2017 we plan to hire four additional youth who will serve as managers for New City Farm and New City Cafe. The manager positions will be available to youth who have worked on the farm for two years. This project will allow these managers the opportunity to share their expertise with the elementary students and middle school apprentices through cooking and gardening clubs. The middle school apprentices will be working alongside high school students in each summer program listed above, exposing them to farming, cooking, and youth programming.

    Economically Sustainable:
    The New City Farm student employees and managers will be involved in every aspect of our CSA farm operation and value added cafe. In 2016 the farm sold 115 summer CSA shares and 40 winter CSA shares grossing over $80,000 in revenue. Our café will be debuted in 2017 and will feature farm to table wood fired pizza, soups, salads and baked goods that will be sold to our customers. This revenue makes our programs sustainable over time.

    Ecologically Sustainable:
    In the winter student employees will engage seed catalogs to see how the farm orders seeds, and see the farm’s crop plan. Student employees and managers will also work in our farm to table café and learn how to convert produce from our farm into value added soups, salads and wood fired pizzas. The managers overseeing the garden club will develop a crop plan and order seeds for a 10 X 20 ft. community garden plot that will be used for the elementary clubs.

    Student staff will also work in our farm-to-table café and learn how to convert produce from our farm into value added soups, salads and wood fired pizzas. They will use this sustainable farming and kitchen knowledge to plan and lead the gardening and cooking clubs.

    In addition, as the student employees and managers become familiar with our growing and kitchen system we will go on a field trip to another small scale vegetable farm and a farm-to-table restaurant. We will use an app called photo voice that allows students to use photography and video to reflect and evaluate what they have learned. The videos the students create will be shown to the high school student staff and we will engage in a brainstorming session about aspects of our system that can be improved as a result of the exercise.

    Our high school managers will make a presentation about their work at food or youth education conferences. They also will organize the elementary and middle school students to present to their families what they learned over the summer, encouraging families to do their own gardening at home or in a local community garden.

    April-May 2017: High school managers develop crop plan, order seeds, start transplants and develop curriculum for garden and cooking clubs.
    June-August 2017: Hire 12 high school youth to work on our urban farm.
    July 2017: 4 high school managers teach gardening club and cooking club to elementary students along with middle school apprentices.
    July 2017: High school student staff go on field trip to other small scale farm and farm to table restaurant and use photo voice to compare and evaluate.
    August 2017: Students present to families the work they accomplished over the summer.
    November-January 2018: High school staff create a presentation of their work and present findings.

    Resources Used

    As a functional CSA farm for the last five years we are well versed in sustainable growing methods and we will provide hands-on learning experience throughout the season. Our Farm Director and Kitchen Director will provide expertise and coaching to the high school student staff. Our Program Director will provide expertise in youth education methods. In addition, we will introduce our farm managers to the USDA Beginning and Farmer Rancher Toolbox (, especially the tool box regarding urban agriculture. Reading resources will also be introduced. These would include Elliot Coleman, The New Organic Grower; SPIN farming and LEAN farming methods.

    Further, we will continue to work with Calvin College to use and develop the photo voice app that we will use in our evaluation and assessment of our farming and kitchen programs. The photo voice app allows students to take a photo and record themselves talking about the photo for 30 seconds. These photos are then put together in a video, allowing students to share their reflections with one another. Students will be asked to take five pictures of things they like and five things they do not like when the are visiting the other farm and farm to table restaurant.


    Our four youth farm managers would be coached by our Farm Director so they could prepare and lead a presentation to other farmers and youth educators. New City Neighbors is well connected to the surrounding farming community and the surrounding youth education community. New City Farm has been a long time member of the West Michigan Growers Group and was a cofounder of the Grand Rapids Urban Growers Group. This group meets monthly and a presentation could be given at this group of approximately 15 farms (30-40 farmers per meeting). We could also present at the Food and Faith series which is a network of faith-based organizations doing Good Food work. In addition, we would apply to present at several conferences including the Good Food Summit, The Small Farmers Conference in Traverse City, and the Michigan Family Farms Conference.

    Further, the high school student staff would approach the schools they attend to see if they could give a presentation of their work to their school. They also would plan a day at the end of the summer to share the accomplishments of the cooking and gardening clubs with student’s families. The purpose of this would be to celebrate the student’s work, but also encourage families to garden at home or in their own community garden plot.

    The youth would also create a YouTube video of their work and share it via our social media.

    Student and Community Impact

    The project would impact 46 youth directly: 10 elementary students in our gardening club, 10 elementary students in our cooking club, 10 middle school apprentices, 12 high school farm student employees in our summer urban farm program, and 4 high school managers.

    Presentations would be given at a minimum of 2 locations with an estimate of 100 people present in total.

    Student’s families will be introduced to community gardening and cooking methods through the end of summer presentation.

    Students would also measure the total amount of produce they grow both by weight and by market value. Likewise, the cooking club would measure total amount of local sustainable produce used in each meal they prepared and what the market value of each meal they prepared would be if retailed.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Empower youth in our neighborhood to reach their full potential through youth programming, youth employment opportunities, community gardening, and growing local food.
    2. Develop student employees' business, cooking, and gardening skills by involving them in every aspect of our CSA farm operation and value added cafe.
    3. Introduce elementary and middle school students to sustainable agriculture through lessons taught by high school students employees.
    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.
    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.