Funds needed for Schoolyard Farms' job-training program
The organization's pilot farm is located at Candy Lane Elementary in Jennings Lodge; the one at Oak Grove's New Urban High School is the second school farm.
Courtney Leeds sees a need for high-quality job training for youth in the community, and she has come up with a solution to the problem.
Leeds, the executive director and co-founder of Schoolyard Farms, is seeking funds to start a job-training program at Oak Grove's New Urban High School, where her organization has a farm.
The "program would be a great way to engage New Urban students in their school farm. They can get hands-on job training while learning about food production," she said.
Schoolyard Farms is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthier communities by teaching kids how to grow nutritious food that goes from the schoolyard to the plate.
"We do this by building mini-production farms on underused schoolyards that act as outdoor classrooms for the schools we serve," Leeds said.
The organization's pilot farm is located at Candy Lane Elementary in Jennings Lodge; the one at NUHS is the second school farm.
Job training, fundraising
"In 2015, Oregon had the 17th-highest youth unemployment rate in the nation for youth between the ages of 16 to 24, at a rate of 12 percent," Leeds said.
"The rate of unemployed for 16- to 19 year-olds in Oregon is even more staggering at 22.3 percent. The longer youth wait to gain job experience, the less likely they will be able to find high-wage jobs later in life, exacerbating the cycle of poverty," she added.
Last fall, a cohort of students began the internship class at New Urban, where they are learning basic work-readiness skills like résumé writing, interviewing, finding a mentor, networking skills and basic workplace expectations.
This spring, if funding come through, "students will take a class in horticulture with Schoolyard Farms, learning the basics of food production: how to start seeds, prepare garden beds, transplant starts and the like," Leeds said.
"During the summer, four or five of the students will be selected through an application process to be farm or summer camp educator interns. They will work part-time on our farms at Candy Lane and New Urban, or as a camp educator at our summer camp at Candy Lane, and receive a stipend for their work," she said.
"We need $15,000 to cover the start-up costs of the program, and are seeking $7,500 of that from individual donors through a crowdsourced campaign. The remaining $7,500 will be generated through grants and business sponsorships," Leeds said.
"We are hoping to start the program in March. People can donate to the campaign by visiting our Causevox page at schoolyardfarmjobs.causevox.com."
Last October, Schoolyard Farms began a tasting program featuring locally grown fruits and vegetables at Jennings Lodge and Candy Lane elementary schools and New Urban High School.
A grant from the Oregon Department of Education's Farm to School program allows Leeds to offer a food tasting once a month for eight months at the three schools.
"The purpose is to increase kids' awareness about local fruits and vegetables; what grows and when it grows," Leeds said.
The first dish that was on offer at New Urban was a corn and tomato salad that the cafeteria staff made from tomatoes and basil grown on the farm behind the school, plus canned corn that the cafeteria at NUHS had in bulk.
The salad was offered free at a separate table from the regular school offerings.
"If [students] are willing to try something new, they might actually like it," Leeds said.
Students can take the recipe home to their parents, "and become advocates for healthy food," said Brooke Hieserich, education director at Schoolyard Farms.
Leeds noted that the dish offered in November showcased delicata squash, while December's dish is baked apples with raisins.
Farm at NUHS
The New Urban farm has been on site since last February, Leeds said, and students in the community service class come out every Wednesday to work on it.
NUHS Principal Noah Hurd "was the visionary in bringing us here," Leeds said.
"We had a farm culture here, but we didn't have a way of staffing it. [Schoolyard Farms] was a way to bring it forward," Hurd said.
He added, "We are excited about the opportunity to taste the food and getting classrooms integrated into the farm."
"Small organizations, like ours, that offer high-quality services to our most vulnerable kids need support from individuals in our communities now, more than ever," Leeds said.
She added, "Consider making a donation, or volunteering time at a nonprofit that you care about. It will go a long way toward creating a happier and healthier future for all of us."
Want to help?
Support Schoolyard Farms' efforts to start a job-training program at New Urban High School by visiting the organization's Causevox page at schoolyardfarmjobs.causevox.com.
Learn more about Schoolyard Farms and its Community Supported Agriculture program at schoolyardfarms.org.
Send an email to Courtney Leeds at [email protected]yard