At the center of the Seattle Youth Garden Works University Garden site sits a large round tiled table surrounded by plenty of chairs under a huge tent. It draws you in and gives you the feeling that a place at that table would make you a part of a welcoming community. Ten under-served or homeless young people are recruited to become part of that community as crew members and work together from 3:30 – 6:30 three afternoons a week. Saturdays they attend the University Farmers Market to sell the produce they grow.
I’ll admit it took me knowing Colin Anderson, farm manager for SYGW, to get me to stop by their stall on a regular basis while at the market. Colin, a Seattle native, has been teaching kids about gardening and cooking since he received his Masters in Teaching from SU. Two years prior to coming back to Seattle from Berkeley, he taught at Alice Waters’ renowned Edible Schoolyard. I know we all have our favorite vendors at the market and they have become one of mine. Since Colin started working at SYGW, their produce has gotten better and better, not to mention it is some of the most reasonably priced around. If you haven’t taken stopped by lately, take a closer look. They have much to offer and you will be supporting a very worthy cause.
The “little gem” miniature romaine lettuce and beets have been some of my recent favorites.
The mission of SYGW encompasses much more than gardening by teaching important life skills to youth at a time in their lives when may need it the most. For some it is their first job, for others having a place to go at a designated time creates a sense of stability that may not be present in their lives. It is a source of income – they are paid minimum wage and a share of the proceeds from the market sales. Each Friday they participate in “straight talk” , an activity designed to help the youth and staff practice giving and receiving affirmation. They learn how to write a resume and practice looking for jobs while experiencing the value of growing sustainable organic produce. Personal growth through social change is evident in all they do.
Presently, SYGW maintains two garden sites, one at Marra Farm in South Park and one right next to the Center for Urban Horticulture on land owned by UW. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities and they are having their 7th Annual Green Gala & Auction next Saturday, October 4. Don’t forget to check out their stall at the University Farmers Market to meet Colin and some of the kids. (BTW, a great tip from Colin — the Center for Urban Horticulture has a wonderful and under-used library filled with all the best gardening magazines and books, available for check-out to the public as well as a knowledgeable staff available to answer your gardening questions).