Garden City Harvest
Garden City Harvest’s Youth Farm, started in 2010. The Youth Farm employs teens, mainly from the adjacent Youth Homes’ youth guidance home, providing not only a job, but also life skills, opportunities for community engagement, and empowerment through agriculture.
Garden City Harvest’s Youth Farm, started in 2010, is a partnership with Missoula’s Youth Homes. The Youth Farm employs teens, mainly from the adjacent Youth Homes’ youth guidance home, providing not only a job, but also life skills, opportunities for community engagement, and empowerment through agriculture. Located behind the Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home, the Youth Farm is a youth-powered, two-acre urban farm.
The Youth Farm’s employment program is designed for older adolescents, 16-18 years of age, who will soon age out of foster care. Garden City Harvest works directly with Youth Homes’ staff to provide a safe and welcoming environment that teaches and develops social skills and encourages positive behavior and personal responsibility. Teen employees are charged with various responsibilities for farm operations throughout the season, including planting, weeding, harvesting, and irrigation. These teens learn the skills necessary to grow food using sustainable methods, and hold a job while becoming active, vital members of their working farm and community. They learn to cook with fresh ingredients for large groups, they build confidence, and making meaningful connections with others throughout this experience.
The farm provides 60+ summer CSA shares to community members each week, where youth can hone their customer service skills. The youth also operate two Mobile Market farm stands, harvesting and delivering fresh, nutritious produce from the farm to low-income senior citizens. They also share the food they’ve grown, along with their new-found cooking skills by preparing a meal for seniors. As part of Missoula Aging Services’ Congregate Meals program, the crew serves up a healthy lunch for the seniors then dines alongside them, making friends with their guests.
The Youth Farm aims to provide teens with skills that will help to prepare them to live independently as young adults, once they leave the foster care system. Each year, there are 6-10 youth who are employed to work at the farm between April and October. Another 25-40 teens from other Youth Homes’ group homes volunteer at the farm throughout the summer months. All the youth work on the farm throughout the morning and take turns preparing a fresh farm lunch for the group.
The small working farm grows more than 20,000 pounds of produce a year. Along with CSA and Mobile Market distribution, food is grown and donated to 8-10 service agencies that feed or distribute food to people in the community who would otherwise not have such access.