YOUTH FARM TEACHES HIGH SCHOOLERS HOW TO GROW
A yellow bus pulls to the curb and lets out a group of teenagers at Grow Dat Youth Farm in City Park. After changing clothes, the crew of six gathers for a trust-circle exercise, one of several activities that start and end the workday.
The high school students are a part of a social entrepreneurship that focuses on young people growing produce and gaining leadership skills. Grow Dat was developed through partners Clean Plate Projects, Tulane Office of Social Entrepreneurship and City Park.
Through Grow Dat, the teenagers learn about gardening, gain hands-on knowledge and engage in leadership activities. Twenty-two people between the ages of 15 and 19, who attend one of the five Grow Dat partner schools, were chosen for the part-time, paid positions in the 2012 program. They work 28 hours a week.
At the beginning and end of each day, members participate in group exercises to bond, like the trust circles. Grow Dat crew member Carnisha Tassin appreciates the exercises because they allow for self-expression and openness.
“My favorite part is talking in circles because you actually get to learn a lot about the people you work with that you didn’t know,” she said. “It’s quite interesting because you meet new people—diverse people at that.”
Crew member Shawn Dexter enjoys having a job where he can move around, unlike his friends who work in fast-food restaurants. “I don’t have time for all that,” he said. “I can’t stand around all day. I’m active.”
Leo Gorman, Grow Dat co-director and farm manager, said the farm offers knowledge that extends past the teens’ first jobs.
“The key piece of Grow Dat is the leadership skills,” Gorman said. “All of the different elements they are learning are going to serve them beyond Grow Dat — in the professional world, in school and in relationships with peers and colleagues.”
According to the farm’s website, the farm is expected to produce 10,000 pounds of food this year and up to 30,000 pounds by 2015.