By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Garden plots across the Twin Cities are growing a new generation of gardeners and a closer community.

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It may not be the way a lot of kids would like to spend their summer, digging in the dirt for hours on end, but Hawwa Youngmark wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

“Yeah, it’s really fun,” Youngmark said.

It’s her seventh year at the Youth Farm and Market Project. The program is in its 16th year and it has spread out at 11 garden plots in five neighborhoods across Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The program also sprouts a sense of community.

“I used to go to just sit at home and watch television,” said Oluwakemi Daniel. “I never felt safe, you know, but here I can just run around and stuff.”

The project is basically a summer camp that goes on all day. There are, however, plenty of activities outside of the garden. Colin Cureton is the program director for the Powderhorn program.

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“We often talk about healthy youth, healthy families, healthy communities as the end goal, and food is really the tool to get there,” Cureton said.

Kids get to sell their goods at Farmers Markets. There are even cooking classes.

“I just hated collard greens at the beginning but there are so many ways you can cook it up and stuff. It’s really yummy,” Daniel said.

Growing food and new members of in the communities is what keeps Youngmark coming back to the project.

“Everyone was just really nice to me, and it was really, really fun,” she said. “I was doing things I never did before, so it just kind of became a summer thing.”

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that youth that participate in Youth Farm make better eating choices, are more physically active and develop stronger relationships with their peers.

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The program is open to kids ages 9 through 18. Click here for more information on the program.

Liz Collin