Bloomington community garden expanding with help of local teens

Published: May. 31, 2022 at 6:47 PM CDT
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BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) - A seven-year-old community garden is getting a boost this year with the help of local teens.

Sunnyside Community Garden has been providing local food pantries in Bloomington with quality fresh produce for years. Now, it’s manager is helping mentor teens and prepare them for the workforce along the way.

“We really hope that this can be a job training site, so that kids in our neighborhood are getting the proper job training they need to be able to make that transition to adulthood,” Farm Manager Dr. Caleb Phillips said.

Some of the things grown in the garden include collard greens, kale, head lettuce, tomatoes, berries, peaches, asparagus and more. With the help from eight teens, all aged between 14 and 16m the garden has quadrupled in size over the past several years.

The teens walk away with life skills and some extra cash at the end of the Summer. Now, the garden produces so much food, they’ve had to find new ways to make sure it all gets eaten.

One service they’ve used is Indianapolis-based Market Wagon, an online farmer’s market which allows anyone in the area to buy Sunnyside’s produce from an app.

“Any local farmer who is trying to grow their business, eCommerce is really the next frontier, and we’re providing access to that,” CEO Nick Carter said.

Phillips estimates they’ve reached dozens of new people and families from the service. The garden shares the revenue with Market Wagon, and the profits have, in turn, helped fund the student mentorship program.

“We want to be able to mentor them and pull them through that process and help them understand the kind of the things that they are going to need to do when they head into the real world,” Phillips said.

In the next few years, Phillips hopes to further expand the mentorship program to 15 or 20 teens.

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