The Youth Farm was created to give teenagers in care at Youth Homes the opportunity for meaningful work though a creative partnership between Youth Homes and Garden City Harvest. It has also allowed each non-profit to bring their respective strengths to the partnership: Youth Homes, whose mission is to assist each child in finding stability, a sense of belonging and place to call home; and Garden City Harvest, which grows and distributes healthy food to low income people, offers education in ecologically conscious food production and uses their sites for the restoration of youth and adults.
The farm would not have been possible without the support of the High Stakes Foundation, Missoula Building Industry Association, former University of Montana professor, Tom Roy and several generous supporters.
We believe the simple act of doing humble, hands-on farm work in small groups provides an incomparable opportunity for transformative change in children and youth. Many subtle yet powerful elements combine to make this transformation occur in an agricultural setting, from being given the responsibility of caring for another living thing to engaging with one’s wider community when taking produce to market. For many of these children, it will be their first chance for such an experience in a supportive, caring environment. Results from our first year show that the youth use their farm experience as a reference point for the rest of their lives, as a barometer for distinguishing good from bad and right from wrong when faced with important decisions in their future.
The farm works with older adolescents who are aging out of foster care and have not been able to forge a stable family placement. Youth from this home are expected to be the majority of our work force but adolescents from any program (group or foster care) of the Youth Homes can be employed. The farm provides a safe and challenging summer employment program for youth and can teach and develop social skills, encourage positive behavior, and advocate personal responsibility. The youth will learn and hone the physical, social, and entrepreneurial skills that are involved in operating a small farm business. They are charged with increasing amounts of responsibility for farm operations throughout the season, including managing irrigation tasks, leading groups of day-program volunteers from the other group homes in activities like weeding or harvesting, and interacting with shareholders and customers. We do want to recognize Missoula’s Human Resource Council through the Youth Employment Program, for funding the salaries of the program participants.
Under the leadership of Garden City Harvest’s Farm Manager, Cori Ash, we employed five Youth Homes’ workers, sold 20 Community Supported Agriculture Shares (CSAs) and provided food for our seven Missoula group homes, along with providing food shares for Watson Children’s Shelter, the YWCA After School Program and Mountain Home Montana. We also had a mobile food service that provided 300 pounds of food per week to Council Grove Apartments and Clarkfork Riverside Community, both of which are low-income housing complexes. The farm is successful because it offers kids a meaningful, positive work experience and provides youth in-care at Youth Homes and community members with healthy, local food.
This will take you to the Garden City Harvest website.
If you would like to learn more about the farm, take a tour, or find out how to purchase a CSA for the current season, please contact, development director, Amy Young at 541-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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