Collaboration between Master Gardeners, Schools and Community Organizations

The Youth Urban Farm Program

I love the farm stand and volunteering so much. This really makes me feel complete when I see the smiles of the seniors over something so simple. It makes me believe anyone can have that kind of joy. ” Delaney, Urban Youth Farmer

Urban teens often lack opportunities to gain a firsthand understanding of where their food comes from and the food system that feeds their community. Teaching teens through hands-on service-learning projects in the garden helps develop a greater awareness of the local food system while building competent caring citizens of the world. The Urban Youth Farm program empowers youth to become change agents in their communities. The program model integrates researched best practices of urban gardening for community development and 4-H Youth Development curriculum, with the expertise and resources of our County Extension Service and Rutgers University faculty and staff. All programs are managed through the cooperation of 4-H and community partners. Volunteers are recruited through the 4-H Leaders Association, Master Gardeners, the Rutgers Veterans Environmental Technology Solutions program and local community garden sites. All volunteers are trained with resources and skills to lead positive youth-development programming.

The Youth Urban Farm Program (YUFP) is for teens who are interested in learning about gardening, entrepreneurship and service. Youth participants are asked to complete 25+ hours of service at one of our farm sites in neighborhoods around Essex and Hudson County.

Since 2013, over 180 teens have participated in the program. We have welcomed 28 dedicated volunteers including Master Gardeners and 4-H leaders who have worked not only to lead youth activities but have helped to maintain the garden sites.  In addition, youth leaders and volunteers have reached over 250 younger youth and families through hands-on demonstrations and activities at some of the selected garden sites. Through the Jersey Cares program and other local volunteer groups, these sites have welcomed over 320 onetime volunteers. 

These projects are run by volunteers and supported primarily through community donations. In 2018, and 2019, the Branch Brook Park Garden received $5,000 from the Branch Brook Park Alliance. The Montclair Community Farms site is funded through the Montclair Community Farms Coalition fundraising initiatives. The East Orange Public Library provides $500 annually to cover supplies. 

For more information on the Master Gardener and 4-H joint projects, please contact:

Chrys Gaffney cg709@njaes.rutgers.edu Marissa Staffen mblodnik@njaes.rutgers.edu