As we fight winter – or should I say on and off again winter – our gardens are waiting for attentive hands to tend their every needs. In the background, teens are biting their nails waiting to escape to the solitude of the farm. At the farm these teens explore nature at it’s best – in the outdoors of farm country. They are waiting to put their hands into the dirt with new plants for the season; explore the insects of the soil and gardens; dig into the vermi-composting bins and see the work that has happened during the winter; turn compost piles; amend soil; set up irrigation; bask in the warmth of the greenhouse while tending to tender plants; and, of course, checking in on all the four-legged friends of the farm. Our teens have begun springing up around the farm, checking things out, preparing for those better days around the corner to come out and make progress. The excitement on our faces of newest teens who will be exploring every inch of the farm was so heart warming to take in. These teens are eager to learn and grow something with their own two hands. They will begin working on the farm in March, as they start planting seeds in the greenhouse that will later go into the gardens at Rural Resources, and eventually, the gardens that we will be putting in the teens’ own back yards.
We work with approximately 50 at-risk teens each year in a progressive program. Teens entering our program spend their first year exploring the farm – learning where their food comes from, how to access local food, and how to grow it themselves. They then spend the second year working with local chefs learning how to cook food in healthy ways and for 4 to 200 people. They pick up catering skills, work in an industrial kitchen, learn how to cook and follow a recipe, and use local produce in the meals they make. The third and fourth years are dedicated to business planning and leadership. The teens spend time building a business plan for a food related business that sparks their interest. After building the plan, and making sure all is doable, the teens implement the plan and become business leaders themselves. After four years the teens graduate from our program. However, if they really expressed an interest in learning more about food – growing or preparing, they can intern that following summer with a local farmer or chef to further develop skills that will direct their career choices in the future. Each year, as teens graduate out, we add a new group of teens into the program. We are excited with the work that we do, and the partnerships we have to help our work touch so many young lives in our community.