Sunday, November 27, 2011

“We want to grow kids in our gardens"

Food is a great organizing tool. Community gardeners have known that for decades. It is inspiring but not entirely surprising that agriculture can be an effective means for directing young people away from gangs. It's real and meaningful and many young people quickly understand the power of being able to grow their own food.

Within the last decade urban agriculture has become a serious enterprise. Meeting future food needs will require that cities become producers of food and not just places where it is consumed. The next generation of farmers will have to count city growers among their ranks. (GW)

Agricultural Program Helps Keep Youths Out of Gangs

By Gosia Wozniacka
Associated Press
November 19, 2011

WOODLAKE, Calif. (AP) — When Manuel Jimenez first set eyes on the land below a levee, thick with brush and weeds, the one-time field worker envisioned a place where youngsters could escape the temptations of gang life and learn about the Central Valley’s most vital industry.

But, like many places in California’s farming belt, this Tulare County town of 7,280 flanked by citrus groves had few resources. Best known for its annual rodeo, Woodlake has been devastated by gangs. More than forty percent of its families, many poor Latino immigrant farmworkers, live in poverty.

Over the past seven years, Jimenez found a way to teach hundreds of young volunteers farming techniques, work habits and communication skills to prepare them for jobs or college. With creativity and help from the community, they turned 14 desolate acres into lush gardens of vines, vegetables and fruit trees. And the local police chief credits the program, Woodlake Pride, with helping fight local gang crime.

“We want to grow kids in our gardens, because we’ve seen what violence, drugs and alcohol can do,” said Jimenez, a lifetime resident who works as a small farm adviser with UC Cooperative Extension.


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