The Seattle Youth Gardenworks
Begun two years ago, this program employs youths who are homeless, have dropped out of school, or are otherwise at risk. Participants are paid five dollars an hour to maintain the program's gardens and sell produce at a farmer's market. After investing forty hours of work, participants become shareholders in the youth business, and are eligible to receive a percentage of profits earned.
The program continues in the winter, when participants produce decorative wreaths for commercial sale. In its two years of operation, sixty-nine young adults have participated. The program usually employs ten workers at a time for a period of one to three months. In its second year, the Youth Gardenworks program doubled its sales of produce at the University District's Farmers Market. Program participants have shown improvment in their family relationships, school attendance, housing situations, and employment.
The organization also attempts to build links within the community, hoping to develop support for the project, as well as educate the public about organic and urban gardening. In the 1997 Northwest Flower and Garden Show, the program's demonstration garden took second place in the nonprofit division for garden vignette design. The plot demonstrated urban gardening and conservation techniques, and was accompanied by a short story composed by youth gardeners.
In addition to maintaining the youth business, Youth Gardenworks has worked with Seattle Tilth, which sub-contracts the youth gardeners to plant demonstration gardens. Two program participants were also given internships, working in Seattle Tilth's own children's garden.
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