Urban teens flex green thumbs
Program produces gardening and life skills
August 7th 2007, Cincinnati Enquirer
With the help of adults, six teens are growing vegetables and herbs to sell locally.
The young gardeners are using organic methods to grow the vegetables and herbs in gardens in Over-the-Rhine and Blue Ash.
The Blue Ash site has running water access, but they have to truck water to the Main Street site which is called the Impact ECO garden.
The teens earn a small stipend and gain work experience. There were 16 in the program last year when there was more funding, says Angela Stanbery, who previously ran the program.
"It's usually people's first job," Stanbery says.
A nonprofit called Memorial, Inc. provides administrative support. Funding for salaries comes through grants and market sales. And the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati provides volunteers, supplies and helps with the leasing of the land, says Luke Ebner, program coordinator.
The kids learn about the entire process from planning through harvest and marketing, says Ebner.
On a recent steamy afternoon, four team members were working in the Over-the-Rhine garden.
DeAngelo Johnson of Over-the-Rhine, 14, has been in the program since he was 11 and says he especially enjoys growing wheatgrass. Johnson said that he's learned leadership skills through the program.
David Oliver, 14, says the program has shown him that hard work pays off. He also has learned how to pick produce and he enjoys the tomato production. Oliver of Kennedy Heights currently harvests at the Blue Ash site.
"Both these guys have done all angles of production," Ebner says. In addition to working with the plants, they've helped with the harvesting and marketing.
Andrea Lewis, 16, of Westwood is the fastest basil picker on the team, Oliver says.
Takesha Maxey, 15, of Westwood is new to the project but has already helped with harvesting.
The kids work on the project year-round, Ebner says, by researching plants in the winter.
Now the gardens are full of tomatoes, zucchini, basil, greens, and more. Soon they will be planting greens for fall harvest and garlic for next year.
Younger kids participate in programs at the Race Street and Pendleton sites, says Peter Huttinger, Civic Garden Center's neighborhood gardens coordinator.
"We're interested and committed to urban gardening," he says.
The teens learn entrepreneurial skills in addition to gardening skills, Huttinger says. "It teaches them discipline and how to utilize and implement basic math and planning skills. And it teaches them the pride in growing something and in working with their hands."
By working with others in neighborhood gardens, people build community as well as grow food, Huttinger said. He added that the Civic Garden Center is working to get a water hookup for the ECO garden.
The ECO garden started in the late 1990s. Microgreens from the Blue Ash site are sold to a local restaurant, Ebner says.