Youth Now Farm offers fresh, local produce underscored by a direct, genuine human connection between youth and customers. It exists for the sole mission of doing social good for underprivileged youth. Buying products from the Youth Now Farm means directly supporting a youth in need in our community and offering hands-on, tangible opportunities for skills training, employment and entrepreneurship.
What does Youth Now Farm do?
Youth Now Farm is a working farm at 5039 Russell Road in Carlsbad Springsthat that raises animals and has a 2 acre garden. We "grow and nourish" youth by providing them employment opportunities at the farm as well as animal therapy programming.
Our focus is youth-centered programming on the farm. Youth who face barriers to success – such as those involved in the criminal justice system, in or leaving foster care, experiencing homelessness, and/or living with disabilities such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) - will be engaged in meaningful developmental opportunities. Youth engagement activities include: raising education and awareness of agriculture among youth; supported skills development and training; employment readiness training and hands-on experience; agriculture-focused respite care for youth with disabilities including FASD; and paid agricultural employment and entrepreneurship opportunities on the farm. These opportunities range from engagement in horticulture, crop management, animal care, and general maintenance on the farm.
What was the inspiration behind creating the social enterprise?
The inspiration for Youth Now Canada was to provide meaningful supports and opportunities in non-traditional settings such as a farm. We have over 3 decades of experience working with young people who face significant obstacles to success and in researching enterprises such as the The Food Project in Boston we felt that leasing a farm from the NCC could be a pioneering program in Eastern Ontario.
What inspires you and your team to do the work you do?
Simply put seeing the youth grow and change when they have the opportunity to succeed in the garden or working with our horses. So many more mainstream approaches have failed to engage some of these young people but the connectivity to grooming a horse while you discuss issues related to anxiety or sitting quietly with the goats while you focus on your emotions can be transformative.
What daily challenges do you face?
Lack of stable funding is the first challenge. Second, we face the same challenges all farmers face; dependence on weather, the impact of long term climate trends on soil conditions and finally the ability to reach a wide audience to share our remarkable story.
What are some of the lessons you and your team have learned along the way?
When faced with challenges how do we use those to inspire us to dig in and move forward. Last fall our farm was impacted by the aftermath of the tornado. Our 150 year old heritage barn was destroyed. We had several young people employed at the farm who have faced setback after setback. We needed to make sure they saw this as an opportunity. We dealt with the loss without ignoring it but used it as a lesson in resilience.
What is Youth Now Farm's vision/mission moving forward?
Our goal is to continually provide meaningful opportunities to young people and develop an environment that other community partners can access and provide these same opportunities to those they serve.
What makes you most proud?
We are most proud of the accomplishments of the youth as they harvest, clean and sell the vegetables to customers. They know that they were directly responsible for this.