Educating Our Youth: Not just growing food, but growing people.
Milwaukee Youth Corps
Growing Power’s youth programs primarily focus on providing job-training and life skills to under-served youth. Growing Power’s Youth Corps is a year-round, youth leadership program offering both academic and professional experience in Community Food System development and maintenance. In Milwaukee, youth work at the Growing Power Community Food Center during the summer and gain competencies in all agriculture demonstration areas, i.e. building and maintaining aquaponic systems, soil remediation through raised beds, hoop house construction, vermiculture, food distribution via the Farm to City Food Market Basket program and operation of Growing Power’s retail store. Through participation youth are directly exposed to all programs, services and activities of the organization from the first minute of their engagement and for every minute they remain engaged. While working on-site, youth gain occupational skills, future employability, and leadership training. Trainees can learn any number of tasks that are constantly taking place at Growing Power, from nurturing and harvesting crops to caring for livestock, and marketing produce. Youth may become mentors themselves as they grow as responsible adults.
Growing Power also provide area schools the opportunity to tour our headquarters and view a sustainable urban farm at work. The tour covers our entire farm operation, offering inner-city school children a chance to experience the life of a farmer. Our tour guide talks extensively about each area of operations including crop production, aquaponics, renewable energy measures, vermicomposting, bee keeping and animal husbandry. Many of the children that visit our farm have never been exposed to a farm or livestock before.
Chicago Youth Corps
Growing Power Chicago Youth Corps engages and employs over 300 youth annually throughout our urban farm sites. Our farms serve as a safe space for teens to explore their interests, work collectively, share their talents and learn from one another. During their time spent on the farms, youth expand their understanding of many aspects of urban farming and community food system development.
Through hands on instruction, teens learn the technical skills essential for farming in an urban environment. Teens grew organic vegetables, herbs and flowers and participate in all phases of farm production. Teens learn to produce compost, prep growing beds, and how to identify, plant, harvest and market the vegetables growing at the farm. They also assist with general farm tasks, pest management, site beautification and infrastructure development. Participants also manage an onsite farm stand, increasing access to fresh, healthy, affordable produce for their community, and providing a window into the economic and entrepreneurial opportunities that exist within food system development.
In addition to hands on instruction at the farm, youth explore the science behind farming, through several inquiry-based experiments and take part in nutrition, hunger, cooking, art, food justice and food politics activities. Teens also participate in a series of workshops focused on interview prep, resume building and other skills needed for college and career success, and, throughout the school year, teens focus on micro-enterprise development, by creating several added-value items from the flowers, herbs and plants they’ve grown throughout the summer. You can help support their work through purchasing these items on our seasonally on our Etsy Page.
This program aims to serve as both a job training experience and to encourage leadership development. It is our goal that teens graduate with a comprehensive understanding of sustainable food system development and the ability to connect and communicate how the skills they’ve gained at the farm translate to any career path they may follow.