Youth Farm expands to Hawthorne, Frogtown neighborhoods

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In an era of cutbacks to youth programs, Youth Farm’s expansion announcement comes as a surprise.

The 16-year-old nonprofit announced it will add programs for this summer in the Hawthorne neighborhood in Minneapolis, and Frogtown in St. Paul. Youth Farm “builds youth leadership through planting, growing, preparing, and selling food” in the Lyndale and Powderhorn neighborhoods in Minneapolis, and on St. Paul’s West Side.

Five hundred kids, ages 9 to 18, participate in its year-round programs. Its youth guide positions also provide summer employment to neighborhood teenagers. The program is free to participants, and one perk I noticed for parents: your kids get excited about vegetables and beg to cook at home.

As for why his grant-funded program is flourishing in an economic drought, Executive Director Gunnar Liden thinks a lot of hard work is paying off and the timing is ripe. “I think people right now are recognizing the combination of locally-centered work, meaningful jobs for youth, the whole urban farming movement–I know for the first many years that I worked for Youth Farm, just getting people to see it not as ‘cute kids in a garden’ was a real struggle” said Liden. “And I think people are starting to recognize — funders and community partners are starting to recognize — that this is really transformative work.”

Youth farmers plant, care for and harvest flowers and produce, cook nutritious meals, sell their bounty at farmers markets, and work with community artists.

Liden says the Hawthorne and Frogtown programs will start small this summer and ramp up. For more info, visit www.youthfarm.net

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