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Uplifting Our Youth Through Sustainable Agriculture

Students at Capitol High School plant in their school garden beds.

Connecting teens with community and urban farming is crucial for fostering a sense of responsibility, resilience, and environmental stewardship. Engaging in urban farming allows young people to develop practical skills in sustainable agriculture, which are increasingly important in a world facing climate change and food insecurity. It also provides them with a direct connection to their community, promoting teamwork, collaboration, and a shared commitment to improving their neighborhoods. Through these activities, teens learn the value of hard work, the importance of healthy eating, and the impact of local food systems on their well-being and the environment. By involving teens in urban farming, we empower them to become proactive leaders and advocates for sustainable living, creating a positive ripple effect that can transform communities and inspire future generations.

This year, Baton Roots will be able to connect youth to sustainable agriculture due in part to a generous $50,000 award from Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation with the Empower 2024 grant. This grant focuses on improving outcomes for children and families residing in North Baton Rouge, with focus areas including Housing, Education, Community Wellness, and Economic Vitality.

Baton Roots Program Coordinator Mitchell Provensal educates teens on sustainable ag.

The Hustle & Grow Youth Gardens program, an extension of Baton Roots, is designed to educate and empower the youth of Baton Rouge about sustainable urban agroforestry. Operating primarily in ZIP codes 70802, 70805, and 70807, this program addresses food security and environmental stewardship. Through intensive training sessions held during the spring and fall, and additional summer work-study opportunities, Hustle & Grow engages approximately 60 youth participants. These young people gain invaluable skills in sustainable farming, from planting to harvest and distribution, fostering a sense of stewardship and community impact.

This program doesn’t stop at hands-on training; it includes semi-annual teacher training and provides necessary supplies and resources to ensure program effectiveness. Participants visit Baton Roots Urban Farm to learn techniques they can implement in their school gardens, enriching the agricultural science curriculum at Capitol, Istrouma, and Scotlandville high schools. The program is also integrated into our Culture Club Afterschool programs, offering workshops and lesson materials led by skilled agriculture educators.

Over the past three years, we've made significant strides in supporting and managing school gardens, directly impacting the educational experience at local high schools. We've trained teachers, district staff, and community partners in locally-effective regenerative farming methods that aren't typically covered in traditional agricultural science programs. These methods help manage stormwater, improve soil fertility, and yield healthy, pesticide-free food, making them essential for both environmental and community health.

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