MISSOULA, Mont. — Welcome to the Youth Farm, a place that’s figured out a solution to some of the country’s most challenging teen problems.
In Missoula, Montana, Garden City Harvest partnered with the Youth Farm to create one of many solutions across the country to prevent teen crime, battle mental health, and send kids on a successful path.
They do it all through the craft of farming.
“We discovered here that young people thrive when they’re connected to the outdoors,” said Jean Zosel, the executive director of Garden City Harvest. “One of my favorite things about the work that we do is our youth development program. And that is a program that uses our farms that employ youth living in Missoula who are struggling with a lot of challenges in their lives. These kids come to us from the court systems, through group homes and alternative high schools.”
Data shows group foster homes and other types of group homes increased by 3.4 percent from last year, and studies have shown youth development programs can lead to successful lives.
The two programs share the farm. Youth Harvest Project gathers teens from Missoula drug court and alternative schools to use farming to apply life skills.
Youth Farm is dedicated to employing teens from group homes and allowing them to build resumes for more job opportunities and growth.
Both programs use everything they produce to give back to their communities through food banks and food programs.
"Farming becomes a form of therapy if you will,” Zosel said. “They get their hands in the dirt, learn about sustainable farming, and connect with the greater community. We try to provide a safe, supported environment for them to learn and grow and allow them to start and define themselves in a different way."