Many things grow in Grow Dat Youth Farm in the city park. Carrots and green vegetables take root with confidence and strength in the program that puts students in the New Orleans area to work in the fields and in life skills workshops.
“It’s a bit of a cliché, but you’re growing up,” said Kristen Shelby, who came to the program as a team member when she was in Benjamin Franklin High School and returned this year as a Assistant team leader and first year student at the University. of New Orleans.
At Grow Youth Dat Farm, students apply for a job – as they would in any business – and are paid minimum wage. They spend half of their time in the fields plowing, planting, weeding and harvesting. They also sell food on Saturday mornings on site and at the Crescent City Farmers Market.
The rest of their time is spent in workshops where students learn life skills, such as shopping, nutrition, cooking as well as communication and conflict resolution.
The farm, which started in 2011 and now has more than 200 alumni, has a $ 1 million operating budget, with income from grants, donations, and money raised by the farm itself through product sales, site rentals, and fundraising including annual farm dinners.
In 2018, the first dinner is on Sunday (March 4) with Chef Michael Gulotta of Mopho and Maypop. The other two will be on March 18 with Chef Jacob Cureton from Atchafalaya, with the final dinner on May 13 with Kristen Essig and Michael Stozfus from Coquette.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, school buses dropped off children. Dirt washed off from large bright orange carrots; others took part in a farmer’s market simulation workshop to find out what to expect when they took their shift this Saturday morning. Students learn to greet customers, answer their questions and make changes.
“It doesn’t look like a job,” said Gustavs Tobiss, a junior at Lusher High School, who also returned this year as an assistant team leader. “I hang out with nice people, do fun things and learn in a very different way than school and get paid for that which is a really good benefit.”
Being outside is a key commentary on the open-air campus, which is located at Zachary Taylor and Henry Thomas Drive near Interstate 610. The program was created in partnership with Tulane University. The school of architecture at this university helped design the green campus.
“The day before Glenn (Caston, program manager) arrived at my school, my mom felt like you needed to go out more,” said Toi Henry, senior at George Washington Carver, who lives in the Treme neighborhood. “And the next day Glen came to our school and it was about cultivating and being outside and I was like, ‘Mum, I have a job. “
“At first I was here just to be here – and not at home. Over time it became something more,” he said, adding that one of the things that What attracted was the diversity of the crew members.
“Saying the word diversity is different from seeing diversity,” he said. “That’s what made me stay. Half the people here I would never have spoken to if they had stayed home.”
He also noticed another advantage of being outside.
“Over time, once you get into the cycle, you start to notice that you lose weight and you start to look toned,” Henry said. “That’s what happened to me. I wonder why I look like this? Because you work at Grow Dat, you lift those wheelbarrows, you pick weeds and everything.”
Students are encouraged to “try” things including new ideas and behaviors as well as the food itself.
“I tried a lot of food,” Henry said. “I (said I) hated guacamole, but never tasted it. They were like you’ve never tasted it, so how can you hate it? Well.”
Gustavs, Shelby, and Henry all shared how the program put them in unfamiliar situations that helped them grow.
“You have to be prepared to be uncomfortable,” Gustavs said. “My crew, they were pretty uncomfortable the first week, but three weeks later they’re all so much more open. It’s just such a short time frame for such intense growth. It will surprise people. “
The same thing happened to him, he says.
“Before that, I was very anti-social,” Gustavs said. “I was just like I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Now I don’t know half of them, but I’m like I’m here and you are here, so let’s talk.”
“It helps me be a lot more honest with people,” he said. “Now if someone has wronged me in some way, I can handle this situation adequately without offending the other person. It made me much more comfortable with it. people in general and to express myself. “
Shelby, who has a naturally soft voice, agrees: “Before Grow Dat I was very clumsy in society. I didn’t really talk to most people. Coming here everyone mingles with everyone. world. Even speaking in public, I would dread it and tense, but I am so much better. “
Henry noted that most crew members need some time to get used to the schedule.
“When you start for the first time it’s going to suck,” Henry said. “Over time it gets better. It gets fun. You meet people. It gets exciting. It’s cold. It’s raining.
“It might not be for everyone because there might be some people who don’t want to change yet, so I wouldn’t recommend it.” said Henri. “Continue to be you. If you want to change and meet new people, come to Grow Dat.”
What: Multi-course dinners to raise funds for Grow Dat Youth Farm. Dinners start with appetizers and cocktails and a tour of the farm, followed by a sit-down meal of local dishes accompanied by wine. The non-profit farm is occupied by young people from New Orleans.
Or: Grow Dat Youth Farm, 150 Zachary Taylor Drive, in City Park.
When and who: Three dinners are scheduled. They are:
• Sunday (March 4) with chef Michael Gulotta from Mopho and Maypop at 5pm
• March 18 with chef Jacob Cureton from Atchafalaya at 5 p.m.
• May 13 with chefs Kristen Essig and Michael Stozfus de Coquette at 5.30pm
Tickets and information: Tickets cost $ 125 each, with group reservations available on the farm’s website. The event is rain or shine. Visit growdatyouthfarm.org. Contact Clara Lyle, Culinary Programs and Events Coordinator, at [email protected], with any questions.
How to go shopping: A portion of the 27,000 pounds of produce collected is donated to non-profit organizations, some of which are sold locally on Saturday morning, from January to June, between 9 a.m. and noon. Students in the program also sell produce on select Saturdays at the Crescent City Farmer’s Market. Produce boxes are also available.