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Youth Farm Initiative

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Saturday (Aug. 9) was the first day of the now weekly farm stand at Felege Hiywot Center, the result of the Youth Farm Initiative. Twelve farm workers were selected by interview to participate in the program focused on providing a hands-on experience in agriculture, ecology and entrepreneurship.  

Youth Farm education was provided by way of companion planting. We covered many topics such as what fruit is, pollination methods, why plants create fruit as well as the botanical definitions of vegetable verses fruit. 13 beds were dedicated to different companion planting strategies through which we explored the biological and chemical strategies that plants employ to ensure the survival of their species. We demonstrated the effects of air, temperature and water on plant metabolism and growth.

Other visual science lessons included how to classify plants and pests based on family and species characteristics. We were able to explore a wider variety of plants while cleaning local city parks. In the garden, we looked at the different adaptations of root structures in tomatos, kohlrabi and corn. We talked about the many uses for all plants. Our diversity allowed us to explore together how plants are used differently in other cultures and countries.   

To learn about marketing and the market itself, we took a trip to City Market and Peace Learning Center to get pointers on being better leaders. We were also lucky to have several excellent speakers visit the center to teach about banking, bees, careers and agriculture on the state level. Also, many of the youth farmers have joined together to form a Youth Council for the NE corridor to speak out about violence in the community as well as contribute to service based projects. Recruitment started last Saturday, at IPS 51 where the Peace Fest was being held. We performed a skit written by the group with the help of Sapphire Theaters, which included a mock debate and different crime scene scenarios.

School is starting for everyone, but most will be able to continue working with the project until the end of the growing season. We will continue monitoring the results of the companion planting experiments and collecting data for yield and water usage statistics. The business portion will be more prominent in the coming months as the focus shifts to operation and management of the farm stand. The farm stand will be selling fresh produce every Saturday at the center from 10-2 rain or shine and proceeds will benefit the program.

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