Spotlight on Youth Gardens

By Julie Parker-Dickerson

Just outside downtown Minneapolis, Project Sweetie Pie (PSP) is hard at work installing urban gardens in an effort to create a food corridor in the Market/Cultural district of North Minneapolis. Over 25 gardens have been installed under the direction of Michael Chaney and his dedicated team of youth leaders. The gardens are installed in an effort to teach youth to grow their own food, engage in entrepreneurial endeavors, and get some exercise.

"We want young people to become food producers," comments Chaney. "Urban farming is a means to an end. It creates economics [as well as] a value system and work ethic within our community. This serves as an antidote to the poison that we [experience] as African Americans, the mythology that the larger, dominant community tries to spread upon us of self-defeat, of low self-esteem. That we're not capable."

PSP's reach is not limited to youth volunteers and programming; the ultimate goal for the organization is to create over 500 jobs for low-income communities surrounding Minneapolis. In 2013, over 175 volunteers participated in the development of 20 urban gardening sites. Working with churches, schools, community organizations, and with the support of local foundations, PSP's community building efforts have received the attention and support of the mayor's office and national companies like Scott's Miracle-Gro.

In 2014, PSP received a $40,000 three-year grant under Scott's Gro1000 campaign. As part of this campaign, Youth Programs Director Julia Parker-Dickerson worked with students at the PSP garden site Karamu Gardens to plant wildflowers to attract pollinators to their thriving edible garden. All food grown at the half-acre garden is donated to the food shelf at the North Point Health and Wellness Center.

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