From Kale to Composting - The Youth Farm Experience

Frogtown Youth Farm

submitted by Genna Maxwell, Sprockets intern

Youth Farm has been serving youth in the Twin Cities for 19 summers through “growing food to develop youth.”  Youth Farm works in 5 neighborhoods across the Twin Cities, including Frogtown and the West Side in St Paul.  Youth Farm is a free, year-round program for youth ages 9-18.  Youth Farm uses food as a tool to develop healthy relationships, positive self-identity, neighborhood engagement, strong leaders, and healthy bodies and minds.  Youth Farm uses a progressive program model where participants can grow up in the program. Once they turn 14 they can be employed by Youth Farm as a Project LEAD. Project LEAD gain leadership experience and help run Youth Farm’s programs for younger youth.

Frogtown has three farms locations; Jackson Elementary, 946 Pierce Butler and 501 Lafond Ave.  Each day, youth farmers tend the farms.  One of the Project LEAD in Frogtown said she loves the program because there is a, “…real emphasis on youth education around agriculture.  [Participants] harvested four pounds of spinach and kale already this year.  They are good at trying new things.  I didn’t know what kale was when I was that age and they are seeing where the food is coming from and are able to eat it.  It’s great!”  A professional chef works with the participants to prepare the lunch each day with produce harvested from the gardens.  Youth farmers then give away the remaining food to Sharing Corner Food Shelf and to any families who ask for it. 

No food goes to waste at Youth Farm.  After their morning snack the youth throw the remains in the compost.  When asked why they compost a participant said that it is, “better for the soil, you get new nutrition for the ground and we don’t want to waste food or litter,” all of which are valuable lessons that they learn from their hands on experiences as Youth Farm.

The second half of their day consists of activities that the youth decide including bike rides, art projects and field trips while working with community partners. Youth Farm partners with Cycles for Change, Stone’s Throw Urban Farmers, West Minnehaha Rec Center, Liberty Plaza, Ober Center, St. Agnes School, Jackson Elementary and St. Stephanus Lutheran Church.   

Free community meals and Farm Days provide opportunities for parents and community members to work in the garden as well as with their end of the summer showcase called Harvest Fest that features music, art, and tours of the garden.  

The Frogtown Harvest will be on Saturday, August 10th from 4:30-6:30pm at the corner of Lafond Ave and Mackubin.  Consider yourself, and all your friends and family invited!

The West Side Harvest Festival will be on Friday, August 9th from 5:30-7:30 at 690 Livingston Ave.

Check out recent press Youth Farm received

Youth ages 9-13 that live in the Frogtown neighborhood are eligible for this free year round program.  Youth Farm also has a location on the West Side at El Rio Rec Center.  For more information please visit their website at