Podcast Transcript: Empowerment Through Farming
Jordan Ryan and Alon Coleman both participate in Youth Farm and Market Project, a youth-serving program in Minneapolis, MN. They speak with NCFY about Youth Farm's approach to youth empowerment, which includes teaching new skills and connecting young people to the community.
Time: 4:44 | Size: 4.3 MB
NCFY: Welcome to Voices from the Field, a podcast series from the Family and Youth Services Bureau. Every youth-serving program ultimately wants to empower its young people, yet that goal can be elusive. Youth Farm and Market Project, a Minneapolis-area nonprofit, teaches children and young adults to grow and harvest their own food. The program fosters youth empowerment by giving participants opportunities to step up through four age-appropriate levels of participation.
Eighteen-year-old Jordan Ryan started as a youth farmer when she was eight years old and has progressed to become a paid youth staff member. She says the program taught her much more than gardening.
JORDAN: They teach you how to like grow your own food and how to like sell it to market and how to make profits and how to like take care of it and water and seed it and mulch it and do everything with the garden. But they also learn like values and like how to accomplish things and feel like pride. And basically for me what I got overall from the Youth Farm is basically learning how to get out of my shell and how to actually like interact with youth and adults and just how to like respect everything around me.
Being a teenager, like I said, being really able to step up into a leadership role, just becoming an All Star, being a mentor for little kids to follow in my footsteps, to becoming a youth staff and hopefully next year an adult staff.
The whole gardening part about it, I feel like that gives kids a really like proud accomplishment at the end of summer to be like, I grew that myself. I made that myself. And at the end, you get to see like what all the kids have worked on. We don’t tell kids in the morning that they have to do this and this and this. They get options. So we can say this morning do you want to harvest potatoes with Ping? Or do you want to go with Alice and go clean up a little bit? And just having a choices just makes them feel like what they do matters.
NCFY: Alon Coleman came to Youth Farm as an older teenager. By employing youth, he says the program gives younger participants lots of role models to look up to.
ALON: First off, it teaches responsibility on both parts, the kids as well as the staff members. Because you have younger teen staff members who are just transitioning from that phase of being a kid in the program, hanging out with their friends to being a leader and giving instructions.
And for the kids as well, it’s like, wow. It makes them more step up to be leaders. And, oh, he was just like me. I can be just like him. I can step up and play the role that they’re playing right now. It really just motivates the kids to try to push themselves and challenge themselves to do better and work harder.
The entire community benefits from the work that we do there. How the food goes from schools to food shelters, restaurants, how everything’s local, how we try to expand it to new locations and other gardens out in other neighborhoods. It’s just a connection piece. I think that really sets Youth Farm apart from other organizations.
NCFY: Jordan and Alon both say the keys to empowering youth are patience and commitment over time.
ALON: You never really know what a kid goes through at home. And so, you want to just create a safe, supportive, constructive environment no matter what. Because when they’re with you, that should be the time of their lives, the highlight of their day. I have kids tell me all the time at the end of the day, they love Youth Farm. This was like the best thing they’ve done all week. So you just want to be happy and wear that smile and just be inviting and supportive on everything they do whenever they’re around.
JORDAN: Like, we understand that people make mistakes and kids will do things that are not the best choices. But we don’t judge just because you had a couple of off days and you wanted to like ... you started like fighting with kids. We try to keep you on board with Youth Farm as long as you possibly can. And I feel like not turning down kids and just having them be able to come back and realize sometimes that violence is not the answer or aggression. And just saying, OK, come, do your best at Youth Farm. We can try it again. We can start over. I feel like that just allows them to kind of realize that they have the opportunities to change and go to the next step.
NCFY: To learn more about youth development, visit the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth, online at ncfy.acf.hhs.gov.
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