Growing Food (and Young Farmers) at the East High Farm

This summer is the second season at the East High Youth Farm.  Last year we started small with a 1/8 acre garden and about a dozen youth.  This year, we doubled our garden size to 1/4 acre and (thankfully) we have more than doubled our farm crew!  Our core crew consists of students from East High and Shabazz, several post college interns, one college student and a great cadre of youth and adult volunteers.  We are also accompanied out on the farm by a group of 20 middle school students who are enrolled in a camp through the Goodman Community Center and join us to work in their own garden at the farm and help out with our work as well.  So, each day on the farm finds us with quite a crew of about 30 youth and adults.  We also host larger groups of middle and high school students some weeks - so we've had some days this season where there have been 50+ eager workers ready to get their hands dirty.

tilled land at East High Farm

new garden beds at East High Farm

Because we have expanded the farm this year, we have had a lot of new beds to create.  We are hoping to establish a permanent bed system as seen in the pictures above.  We aren't planning on tilling once we get our beds and paths layed out.  We did have CAC come in and till up some new land that was in sod last fall and this spring (first picture).  So, that left us with a big area to tackle.  We laid out our beds and paths using stakes and twine, then we dug out the paths and flipped the soil into the beds to make them more defined and raised,  we woodchipped the paths, planted our seedlings and seeds, and the mulched with hay.  As of this week we are laying out our last three small sections of the farm and then the whole plot will be done!

youth planting tomatoes  youth planting tomatoes

The youth have done a great job of helping to keep the farm growing and producing.  This past week we started to prune and trellis all of our tomatoes.  We planted 100's of plants of many different varieties at the end of May when we had a large field trip of students from LaFollette High School visit for an afternoon to work on the farm.   A lot has changed since then and our tomato plants have grown and gotten a bit out of control.  So, last week one of our interns, Heidi, who also works on a much larger farm than ours, gave us all a pruning demonstration and we got to work.  Our tomato plants had gotten very big and when we started to prune it was funny to watch everyone exclaim that they thought they were hurting the plants by taking off so much growth.  We got most of them done, though, and started on the next step of trellising.  We hope to donate lots of tomatoes to the Goodman Community Center Food Pantry, have plenty for the youth to take home to their families, use some to make fresh salsa to eat while at the farm, and maybe even participate in some canning at Goodman.

people pruning tomatoes

pruning tomatoes in the garden

view of East High Farm


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