Growing veggies is just the beginning at the Youth Farm

Did you know that the Girls Inc. Youth Farm, just 10 minutes away from downtown Memphis, is the ONLY girl-run youth farm in the country? You do now!

The Youth Farm is in full swing, with bountiful crops of summer squash, okra, cucumbers, green tomatoes, basil, purple hull peas and more. All of it is available each Saturday at our stand at the Memphis Farmers Market.

And as much as we love a good summer tomato, the farm is much more than fresh veggies. Jetia Porter, one of 20 members of the current farm crew, says her experience on the farm has inspired her in countless ways.

“I love the fact that we learn about agriculture on a daily basis but also spend time finding ourselves as young women and becoming leaders in our community,” Jetia says. “Learning about the great benefits natural produce can have on the human body really pushed me to want to continue to practice growing food from the earth and becoming more cautious of my health.”

Jetia’s farm inspiration is far from unique – this summer the farm has connected her and her fellow farm crew members with curious visitors, corporate sponsors, interns and volunteers.

The farm hosted its first pop-up event, dubbed Coffee and Crops, on July 17. Guests stopped by for a cup of coffee and the chance to check out the layout of the farm. While the girls on the Farm Crew were busy tending to beehives and testing soil samples in order to plan for fall crops, guests were treated to fresh cut zinnias and lots of information about the farm. Thanks to our friends at French Truck Coffee for donating the delicious hot java and pastry assortment.

Throughout the summer we’ve enjoyed hosting visitors and showcasing the 9.5 acre, pesticide-free farm. A special “thank you” goes out to our corporate sponsors International Paper and AutoZone who sent representatives in June and July to spend time with the girls and learn more about our food sustainability programming in the Frayser community.

We also benefitted from a generous Day of Service thanks to 901nterns from FedEx, International Paper and AutoZone. This energetic group worked alongside the Farm Crew harvesting vegetables and flowers for the Memphis Farmers Market.

Activities at the farm allow for connections that prove valuable to everyone involved. Take Abby Baskind, who has worked as a farm intern this summer and says her time at the farm has been one of the greatest experiences she’s ever had.

“I’ve discovered that simply changing a girl’s day by waking up early, showing up and guiding her, whether through a farm task or a short conversation about education or friendship, can generate a positive change that can go far beyond a day’s program,” Abby said. “Neither the girls nor I have much, if any, farming experience, yet we still get good produce to the market every week. Perhaps that’s been my biggest takeaway – expertise is not a requirement. It’s the goal.”

It’s ultimately about the girls, of course. Farm Crew member Chante’ Jones says working at the farm inspires her to be courageous, strong, smart and bold.

“The thing I like about the Youth Farm is tha it’s run by girls and it shows young women can be and do anything,” Chante’ says. “The farm benefits me and my community because it’s locally grown food and we know what it takes to grow our own food.”