Sprouting from a vacant 3 ˝ acre lot in central Phoenix is an organic market garden where young people in the innercity are raising cut flowers and gourmet vegetables to sell to area restaurants, at Farmers Markets and to provide fresh vegetables to the needy. They are creating an urban oasis between two struggling neighborhoods, while learning marketable job skills in the fastest growing industry in the United States. They each have an opportunity to become certified by the Arizona Nursery Association while experiencing the basics of business first hand. Mentors from the neighborhoods, surrounding businesses and Master Gardeners are learning as much from the youth as vice versa.
The property is being loaned by one of the project’s primary sponsors, Samaritan Health System. Funding for the half time project coordinator was funded by Phoenix Newspapers Inc., the Phoenix Suns, and Samaritan. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension provides expertise and leadership to the program. Other partners include the Greater Coronado Neighborhood Association, Garfield Neighborhood Association, Shepherd’s Seeds, Mountain States Nursery, the Arizona Nursery Association, and the Phoenix Boys and Girls Club. Guidance is provided to the garden project by an advisory board with representatives from the High Schools, Juvenile Justice and Probation, the Nursery Association, Neighborhood Services, Neighborhood Associations, and Community Leaders (young & old).
The "Miracle Garden" began in 1994 as the vision of Master Gardener Lynn Town who read about successful gardening projects in other states addressing the needs of innercity youth. "Cabrini Greens" in Chicago, the "Food From the Hood" in Los Angles, "The Green Brigade" in San Antonio and other similar projects are teaching at-risk youth marketable skills in horticulture and business management, personal skills in teamwork, leadership, planning and responsibility, and pride of ownership and success.
Lynn recruited Samaritan Health Services, University of Arizona, Maricopa County Cooperative Extension, Chef's from Gourmet Restaurants, Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix, Coronado and Garfield Neighborhood Associations and a variety of organizations and individuals to form a core planning group. The "Miracle Garden" (so named by youth participants) will be a urban farm raising gourmet vegetables, fruit and cut flowers to sell to restaurants, Good Samaritan Hospital, a grocery stores and at a market stand at the garden. Samaritan Health Services has donated three and one half acres on 7th Street just South of McDowell. Young people from the surrounding community will plan, plant, manage, harvest and sell the produce. Proceeds will go toward salaries and scholarships for the youth participants as well as ongoing cost for managing the project.
Young people on the planning team developed the following mission statement for the miracle garden:
Project Title: The Miracle Garden
Project Leader: Chris Brusnighan, Instructional Specialist, 4-H Youth Development
Project Team Members:
Location of Project: 7th Street between Brill and Willeta (between the Garfield and Coronado Neighborhoods in Central Phoenix)
Critical Issues to be Addressed:
Horticulture has much to offer both in personal development and in employment opportunities. There are many important job skills which are difficult to teach in a classroom situation but which are readily learned in a garden. In addition, responsibility, planning, creativity, patience, and organizational skills are all critical to success as a gardener. Since agriculture is the largest industry in the United States with horticulture it's fastest growing component, there are many employment opportunities in the field. Also, it is an industry that one can enter with minimal skills and find numerous opportunities for job advancement . The participants will also be empowered to apply the entrepreneurial and business skills that they learn in managing the farmstand to creating their own small businesses, the number one source of new jobs in Arizona at the present time.
The youth garden project will be patterned after other successful projects in other states. For example, the Youth Farmstand Project run by Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey utilizes a retail farmstand to provide vocational and entrepreneurial training to economically disadvantaged youth. In San Antonio Texas the Bexar County Green Brigade program targets youth at risk and juvenile offenders teaching them xeriscape landscaping and water conservation in the Teaching Garden at Rodriguez Park. In Chicago the Cabrini- Green urban housing project created a market garden of gourmet vegetables and divides the profit between the children who participate.
In summary, juvenile offenders who participate in this program will receive specific job training in the horticultural industry and will learn entrepreneurial skills which can be utilized in any field of work. They will be able to take pride in their efforts to beautify the neighborhood, feed the homeless, and join forces with other residents and volunteer organizations in a movement toward constructive change in the inner city.
A "Miraculous" Learning Oasis in a Low Desert Garden
by Lucy K. Bradley
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Master Gardeners facilitated the creation of an organic market garden managed by inner-city youth raising gourmet produce and cut flowers. Incorporating the key components of successful prevention and intervention programs the garden is benefiting the youth and the surrounding community. There are three main components to the program: 1) Management of the Garden; 2) Marketing of the produce; and 3) Job preparation and placement.
Key Words: youth gardens, school gardens, market gardens, entrepreneurial, vocational
Sprouting from a vacant, three and one half acre lot in central Phoenix is an organic market garden where young people in the inner-city are raising cut flowers and gourmet vegetables to sell to area restaurants, at Farmers Markets and to provide fresh vegetables to the needy. They are creating an urban oasis between two struggling neighborhoods, while learning marketable job skills in the fastest growing industry in the United States. They are becoming certified by the Arizona Nursery Association while experiencing the basics of business first hand. Mentors from the neighborhoods, surrounding businesses and Master Gardeners are learning as much from the youth as vice versa.
The garden is in a rough community in central Phoenix, AZ. Area residents call the police three times more frequently than the residents of the rest of the metro area. Though fairly small geographically, 28% of all juveniles sent to court for violent crimes are from this community (Maricopa 1995). Gang related violence is particularly high. According to Rudy Mayfield, a juvenile probation supervisor, gun-fights and glue sniffing are dominant problems in this neighborhood. The school drop out rate is high, and the resulting low level of job skills feed the gang problem. Young people with no hope for success in traditional avenues turn to gangs and violence for a future. The community is primarily Hispanic and African American. In Maricopa County an estimated 70.8% of African-American males are referred to juvenile court by age 17 (Maricopa 1995). An estimated 42.9% of Hispanic males are likely to have a record by the time they are 17 (Maricopa, 1995). It is estimated that 33% of the children in the area live in single- parent homes In addition, the socioeconomic conditions within the neighborhoods are depressed. Only 49% of the homes are owner-occupied and parts of the community are highly transient with many resident leaving less than two years after they moved in. The average home value is significantly lower than the average for the city as a whole.
Lynn Town, a Master Gardener who was inspired by the Cabrini Greene gardens, was the driving force behind the creation of the garden. A member of the targeted community she effectively utilized strategies identified in the Master Gardener school gardening plan (Guy, 1996) to inspire community, corporate, and professional support for the concept
A site and funding for a part-time coordinator were secured and the garden germinated. Recognizing the importance of community participation (Bradley, 1996), the first order of business was a full day team meeting with all adult and youth participants to focus the program. The following priorities were identified:
The Goals for the Participants:
The three and one half acre lot was cleared of debris, fenced and cultivated to raise organic produce for local restaurants and a local farmers' market. The Garden is operated and managed by at-risk adolescents from the surrounding community. The youth are encouraged to be involved with all aspects of the operation from planning, planting and maintenance to sales, marketing and accounting (Bradley, 1996).
Participating youth work between four and eight hours per week. They also receive support training that includes the following:
While we have not been tracking outcomes long enough to report any meaningful numbers the following areas are being examined: Juvenile crime within the targeted neighborhoods as measured by police statistics; truancy as measured by school records; misbehavior as measured by school, parent, & self-report; vandalism as measured by police, substance abuse as measured by police & self-report, school & self-report; running away as measured by police & self-report; the neighborhood residents' perception of their personal safety and general health of the community.
Participants change in knowledge, attitude and behavior:
Attitude: Developed self confidence, comradery, interest in learning and pride in what they have accomplished. Accepted responsibility for improving their community and take pride in progress beautifying the neighborhood, providing food for those in need, and creating constructive change in the inner city.
Behavior: Followed through on responsibility accepted and worked hard. Six of the participants have secured a job in the green industry making greater than minimum wage. Five of the participants from the first year came back as a mentors for the youth in the second year's program. One participate, has been accepted into an accelerated program earning college credit while in high school, is well on her way to not only being the first in her family to graduate from high school but the first to attend college.
In Adolescents at Risk: Prevalence and Prevention (Dryfoos), Joy Dryfoos reviews thousands of prevention and early intervention programs. She identifies the following key concepts as critical to the success of a program. Recognizing that each of these components is vital to achieving sustainable impact in a community, they became the framework around which the "Miracle Garden" is developed.
B. Community wide, Multi-agency, Collaborative Approach.
The garden has a broad base of community support and involvement ranging from schools, to neighborhood associations to local businesses, to public agencies, and non- profit organizations.
C. Early Identification and Intervention
The community arbitration team regularly refers young people to the garden to perform community service. Several of these young people have stayed on to volunteer after their legally mandated time. The garden is focused on prevention and early intervention. Our goal is to provide young people with the knowledge, skills, confidence and support to propel them in to positive ventures.
D. Locus in the Schools
While we are not centered in the schools, we are strongly connected to the schools with several teachers serving on the steering committee and engaging their classes in garden related activities.
E. Administration of School Programs by Agencies Outside of Schools
The garden is administered by a half time program coordinator who works for the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. The coordinator is guided by a steering committed comprised of representatives of all the facets of the garden and its partners.
F. Location of Programs Outside of Schools
The garden is not on the school campus though there are activities in classrooms that are connected to the garden.
G. Arrangements are Made for Training Staff
Volunteer and paid staff (adults and youth) are trained in horticulture, leadership, public relations, and business management. The whole program is continuing education both formal and informal.
H. Social Skills Training
Social skills and public relations training for the youth has been critical to the success of the project both in selling the produce and in volunteer retention. Heavy emphasis has been placed on this component and the skills that the young people have learned will be valuable in every aspect of their lives.
I. Engagement of Peers in Interventions
Peer leaders and group responsibility, as well as personal accountability for out comes have helped all recognize the importance of their contributions and developed leadership skills.
J. Involvement of Parents
Some parents have been very involved, others only moderately or not at all. The program and the youth have benefited tremendously from the contributions of those parents who have participated in the program
K. Link with the World
This has been one of the most exciting components of the program for the young people. They have been on field trips to commercial growers to see how others are growing, harvesting and packaging produce. They have been to Farmers Markets and grocery stores to see how others are marketing produce and at what price. They have been on behind the scenes tours at restaurants that purchase their produce to see how it is used, what makes it more valuable for them, etc. Many of them who had no idea that a carrot was a root a year ago have a whole new way of looking at the world and a whole new understanding of its interconnectedness.
Partners include: Samaritan Health Systems, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County Master Gardeners, Coronado Neighborhood Association, Garfield Neighborhood Association, Phoenix News Papers Charities, Inc., Boys and Girls Clubs, The Arizona Nursery Association, The City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department, North High School, Central High School, Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, Maricopa County Sheriff's Department, The Arizona Department of Transportation, Mountain States Nurseries, Harpers Nurseries, Boy Scouts of America, Juvenile Probation Board, The Phoenix Suns, Native Seed Search, Shepherd Seeds, American Society of Landscape Architects.
Bradley, L. K (1996) Tierra Buena: The Creation of an Urban Wildlife Habitat in an Elementary School in the Inner City. Children's Environments: theory, research , policy and applications 12(2), 245-249
Bradley, L. K. (1996) Bringing the Mountain to Muhomet: Creating an Urban Wildlife Habitat in the Inner City. The Proceedings for the National Symposium on People Plant Interactions sponsored by The Plant and People Council and the University of Texas, San Antonio, TX
Chawla, L. (1994) Out of the Garden, Into the World: Preparing Children to Care for the Earth. International School Gardening Conference sponsored by the Montessori Foundation and the American Horticulture Society, Arlington, VA.
Dryfoos, Joy Adolescents at Risk: Prevalence and Prevention,
Guy, Linda, Cromell, Cathy, and Bradley, Lucy: 1997 Success with School Gardens: Creating a Learning Oasis in the Low Desert, Arizona Master Gardener Press, Phoenix, AZ
Maricopa County Juvenile Court Center 1995 Annual Report
Sommer, R., Learey, R., Summit, J., & Tirrell, M. (1994) Social benefits of resident involvement in tree planting: comparison with developer-planted trees. Journal of Arboriculture 20(6), 323- 328
For more information on the Miracle Garden contact Chris Brusnighan, Instructional Specialist, 4-H Youth Development, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040-8807, (602) 470-8086 ext. 359, firstname.lastname@example.org
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