Working at Chicago Botanic Garden's Green Youth Farm

Working at Chicago Botanic Garden's Green Youth Farm
What’s it like to work at Green Youth Farm? Three high school kids who are part of the program share their thoughts on what they get out of spending their summers working at Green Youth Farm. At Green Youth Farm they learn skills ranging from- organic farming to cooking and selling the food they grow at local farmers markets. Click through for three mini-guests post by kids who aren’t farming on Facebook, but have their hands in real dirt leaning valuable skills and info on where you can buy their produce. 
Green Youth Farm is a summer job that high school kids ages 15-18 years of age learn about vegetables, how to grow vegetables, and harvest vegetables. I am one of the kids that participates in the program. So far I have learned Green Youth Farm is a good experience for learning new things.
We learn about composting, work with younger youth where we teach them about GYF. We harvest produce for snacks with the youth we teach. We go up north to another farm site in North Chicago and meet other high schoolers that work at GYF too. At North Chicago we cook, clean, garden and play games with the staff and other GYF students. We made chicken gyros, stir fry and zucchini cupcakes from the produce grown in the garden. We go to farmers markets in the city of Chicago. We sell our produce at the Bronzeville Market on Saturday from 8am to 1pm. We also have workshop sessions where I have learned how farmers make their money selling produce and composting.
Every Friday, we have a farm stand where we sell our produce right from our site. The
community comes out to buy our produce that we harvest. We also talk about selling our produce at the Bronzeville market during our farm stand to advertise ourselves.
What is Green Youth Farm?
Green Youth Farm is a program that teaches communication skills, observation skills and everyday life skills. GYF is not a program just for high school students but also for adults or anyone who wants to give back to the community. Here at Green Youth Farm, we experience many things such as making our own compost, prepping garden beds and harvesting the vegetables we have grown. GYF offers many experiences like going to North Chicago to help other students in the program with their garden because their garden is larger than ours. We use team building exercises and leadership skills to help ourselves, peers and others outside of the program.
We traveled to Black Oaks recently, which is a sustainable farm area south of Chicago. There we chopped wood, helped build an outside kitchen, watered gardens, help transplant vegetable seeds and picked berries in their blueberry patch. We also work with non-GYF youth like Chicago Park District kids. CPD kids come to our site every Tuesday and on some of our field trips to help us work. Working with GYF and others is a great experience because we meet new people and learn about other fruits and vegetables we weren’t aware of before. Recently we went to our sister site at Windy City Harvest where we made soil blocks to transplant lettuce for the North Chicago site. We transplanted a total of 220 blocks of lettuce and summer squash.
The funniest things that happen on the farm are usually during teambuilders…like people falling or saying weird things. But that’s also when we learn the most. Like in this one game “Ship to Shore”, the same people always win because they stick together, and that’s a good lesson for our crews.
The hardest part about working at the farm is making compost…I mean, it’s fun because you can talk to people while you’re doing it and help each other out figuring better and faster ways to get the work done. But it is REALLY hot…and kind of dirty.
Sometimes we get down on our jobs, like when we were on a field trip working in someone else’s berry patch. Some of us were complaining, and staff were getting upset and I said “Hey,would you rather work in the SNOW?” people have a lot worse jobs than us for sure.
When I look back 10 years from now, the biggest thing I’ll remember is BE ON TIME, or you’ll miss out. Sometimes I have to walk and it takes me a lot longer to get to work, but I would rather be a little late and sweaty than miss a day of work.
Last year I applied too late to work at the farm, but I was able to volunteer one day. I knew how fun it was going to be from that day, so I waited until this year and got the job! I learned so much…when I started, I thought lettuce grew on trees like leaves! The best thing we grow are orange tomatoes…they are so little and so sweet!
If you’d like to support the Green Youth Farm project you can buy their produce at these farmers markets.
North Lawndale Green Youth Farm, Wednesdays, 3 – 7 p.m. through Oct. 13, 3539 W. Ogden Avenue
Bronzeville Farmers’ Market,
Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. through Oct. 9, 4400 S. Cottage Grove Avenue
Pilsen Farmers’ Market,
Sundays, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. through Oct. 24, 1800 S. Halsted
U-Pick-It Market,
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. through Oct. 9, Green Bay Road south of Belvidere Road, North Chicago
Chicago Botanic Garden Farmers’ Market,
first and third Sundays of the month, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Here’s a video of kids working at one of the Green Youth  Farm Locations.’


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  • Cool project and nice hearing directly from the students. I particularly like Qhasia's take. :)

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Yeah, I liked Qhasia's take on it too.

  • I enjoyed the kids' guest posts, and the video too MBT. It's fantastic seeing more and more kids getting interested in gardening, and seeing how organizations like CBG are investing in projects like this.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    I had the chance to see one of the GYFs from outside the gate yesterday and I'm amazed with what the kids accomplish on an empty lot. It is beautiful and their produce looks awesome. I'll post pics soon.

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