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The farm also grows organic vegetables, which its teenage “Garden Warriors” were harvesting last week.
Jalen Morrison, 16, of St. Paul, has worked at the farm for four years. His experience shows how the nonprofit tries to groom future health emissaries.
Morrison started in a program called Cora’s Kids, a one-week farm experience project. Now a Garden Warrior, he’s participating in a cooking class in the farm kitchen and sometimes staffs the farm’s vegetable booth at the Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis.
“Before I came here, I didn’t know anything about making a garden, about different types of seeds, different plants to eat,” Morrison said during a lunch break under a big shade tree.
Nearby, Breanna Greene and Gene Parker, both 14-year-olds from St. Paul, said they liked getting out of the city, working the fields, and “being able to be outside and be safe.”
Greene says she has experimented with making salads at home with her family. Parker proudly announced, “A couple of days ago I cooked my first wild rice.”
The teens get paid for their summer work. They also get leadership opportunities during the school year. Some can eventually return as interns and even staff.
The farm, in fact, is a scientific laboratory for older students. It is currently hosting a U student who is studying how to protect its purebred crops from getting pollinated — and spoiled — by genetically engineered varieties.
The work doesn’t stop at the farm. To reach parents, Dream of Wild Health offers cooking classes during the school year and a “Garden in the Box” — everything needed to make a raised garden bed. It also supports indigenous gardens on St. Paul’s East Side. And this year it received funding to buy a van to start a catering business.
While bursting with ideas, the nonprofit relies heavily on its youth to lead the charge against fast foods and bad food. Maintaining their enthusiasm over the years could be a challenge, its leaders admit.
“We’re planting a modest seed, both literally and metaphorically,” said Wilson. “We’re hoping that when these kids become adults, they will remember these experiences, and they will shape their lives so they can be healthy adults and raise healthy families.”
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511