The Miracle Garden is a youth market garden, created in 1994 to offer youth in the Phoenix area a constructive alternative to gangs and crime so prevalent in inner-city neighborhoods. Since the Garden's inception, six young people have operated and managed the Garden, providing an environment where other youth and community members of all ages and background come to share in all the Garden has to offer. Both adult and youth volunteers spend most of their time in the Garden itself, together tackling everything from deciding what crops to plant, to soil preparation and composting to planting and weeding, to thinning and tending, to harvesting, and then starting all over again. Together we build, landscape, till and plow. The work is hard, but the satisfaction is tremendous.
The demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods and statistics relating to its youth are alarming. The Garden borders three different gang territories, one-third of all the area high school aged youth are dropouts, and the resulting low level of job skills is staggering. Studies show that young people with no hope for success in traditional avenues turn to gangs and crime for a future. The youth that are involved with the Garden are in special need of job training, leadership and interpersonal skill development, individual adult/youth interaction, and experiences that foster self-esteem. In addition, the Garden, located on an abandoned parcel of land, is now an urban oasis between two struggling neighborhoods and has become a point of pride. In spite of the seemingly overwhelming odds that our youth face, the opportunities that they themselves have helped to create are helping them change the directions of many lives. The Miracle Garden provides a unique environment in the City of Phoenix.
The Miracle Garden's youth leaders have a tremendous commitment to the Garden. Each youth leader is either an officer of the organization or is in charge of a specific project; for example, Tool Shed Manager; Public Relations & Recruiting; Market Manager; and Site Planner. All of them have been dedicated in a manner that has far exceeded anyone's expectations. While all of the youth learned about the Garden from their association with the neighborhoods, most of them have since moved and go to great lengths , and travel far distances, to continue their work. The Miracle Garden's youth leaders exemplify the spirit of giving back to one's community.
While the Garden does grow some of the best vegetables in town, we believe that it is the "intangibles" that are the real achievement of the Garden. The Miracle Garden's youth leaders have brought success to the Garden in many ways. They have had personal successes, have helped other youth, as well as many adult volunteers, to achieve growth in knowledge, attitude and behavior. Garden participants have gained knowledge in horticulture, entrepreneur-ship, and job readiness, as well as organizational, communication, employment, leadership and community building skills. The youth have developed, and help others to develop, attitudes that foster self confidence, camaraderie, and interest in learning and pride in what they have accomplished. Their successes have manifested into behaviors that have improved grades and attendance, won them jobs in the "green" industry and in a local law firm, and have helped one participant become the first person in her family to ever graduate from high school, and the first to go on to college.
Last fall, our Miracle Garden youth volunteers made a presentation about their project to the attendees of the National Conference of the American Community Gardening Association in Indianapolis, Indiana. The auditorium was filled and our youth received rave reviews.
In 1997, the Miracle Garden was adopted as a project of Maricopa County 4-H Youth Development*. Now relocated to a smaller, but permanent site, the Miracle Garden grows again. Our youth leaders are taking on new responsibilities. A toolshed has been donated but we will need more tools, a greenhouse, a meeting pavilion and landscape materials. We will be developing workshops and a nursery certification program. They are starting over again, step by step, seed by seed. With branches broken, but roots intact, they have weathered their challenges beautifully.
JC Penny Golden Rule Award Finalist - 1998
Phoenix Kid's Pride Award - Winner in group category, grades 7-12, 1998
Phoenix Youth and Education Commission Education and Partnership Honor Roll
Community and School Gardening Conference - 1998
The Miracle Garden is located on the Northeast corner of 12th Street and Willetta, behind the Samaritan Health Systems Building. Come watch us grow Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
What's so special about the Miracle Garden?
We extend special thanks to our contributing supporters and team members:
For more information on the history of the Miracle Garden visit our archive page
* This is a program of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension for Maricopa County.
For more information on the Miracle Garden contact Kristen Battafarano, Instructional Specialist, 4-H Youth Development, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040-8807, (602) 470-8086 ext. 356, firstname.lastname@example.org
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