Past the fields of corn stalks and hand-painted farm signs of East County, within the hustle and bustle of Boulder proper, down a suburban street of ’50s-style ranches, Growing Gardens has taken root.
Growing Gardens’ urban garden—several acres literally planted in the middle of the city—includes plots for residents, a children’s garden and Cultiva, two acres of organic produce planted, nurtured, harvested and sold at market by local teenagers.
Every summer, 50 Boulder-area kids get up at the crack of dawn two days a week to plant, weed, pick produce and get dirty in the sunshine. Proceeds from the sales of Cultiva harvests go to local families in need. The teens are paid for their time, and they learn lessons they won’t find at other summer jobs: from the basics of gardening and farming to teamwork, responsibility, commitment and hard work.
The kids earn cooking classes with local chefs, take nutrition classes and volunteer. Some of the participants work at the farmer’s market, selling the goods.
“They learn about food security issues and the value of physical labor,” said Ellie Goldberg, Cultiva coordinator. “They can gain appreciation for it. They can see and experience the rewards of their labor.”
Coordinators select participants who are not only committed and ready for the work but who will help make the groups well-rounded.
“Everyone is really nice. They are all happy to be outside and to be here,” said 15-year-old David Andrews. Both David and his older brother, Vaughn, 18, worked at Cultiva in 2010 and 2011.
The kids say they like the work—in the sunshine, the growing process, working together, being around other “cool kids”—and many suggest their experience was more than just a job: “It’s satisfying because I’m not just feeding a corporation with labor. I get to help out a non-profit. I get to be a part of this process,” 18-year-old Eric Norton, a college student and a youth leader at Cultiva. “It’s the best job I could have