LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As more people are growing up removed from the farm than a few generations ago, agriculture programs in urban areas are teaching them from where their food hails.
Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville, has become a prime example. The latest endeavor launched earlier this month is designed to teach young people about nutrition and how to grow, cook, market and sell their own food.
The Seed to Sale initiative debuted at the Parkland Boys and Girls Club with a host of local and state officials, including State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and District 1 City Councilwoman Attica Scott.
Comer said the great thing about the program is every Boys and Girls Club across the state can participate.
"I think we have raised enough interest and enthusiasm in the private sector that any Boys and Girls Club in the state that wants to have this, we can get the funding for them," he said. "A lot of private sector businesses have stepped up to the plate and said they’ll help."
Comer said extension personnel in those areas where there is an interest have also agreed to help and teach classes using the gardens as outdoor classrooms, in trying to show these young people how to grow food. He added many of these urban children have never seen fresh vegetables on the vine.
"Now they are growing it and will want to eat it because they take pride in the fact that they helped produce it," said Comer. "Hopefully it will change their diet, inspire them to do things with a sense of entrepreneurial spirit and maybe help develop future leaders and entrepreneurs with these types of projects."
Fischer said connecting young people to gardening is a proven way to move the needle when it comes to children accepting fresh fruits and vegetables – they will eat what they grow. "Community gardens and programs like this also build entrepreneurial skills in young people, and they build stronger, safer and more connected and engaged neighborhoods and communities," he added.
Scott said the importance of this garden means these young people are going to go home and talk to their parents about gardening and they could start a garden at home.
"Kids, gardening is like building a community. You’re going to plant something, and you’re going to watch it grow," she said. "You’re going to watch it flourish, and you’re going to watch it make a difference for folks."
Comer said the Boys and Girls Clubs do great work and this project gives them something related to agriculture and "outside the box." Jennifer Helgeson, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana, said there are plans to roll it out to other Clubs across Kentucky in the coming years as interest grows.
"We are excited for this partnership and believe the program will be a great success," she said.
Comer said much is being taught in connection to the program, in addition to how to produce food. "You’re teaching work ethic, teamwork and teaching them how to achieve," he said. "I think one of the things that our education system is lacking in the state of Kentucky is we’re not teaching entrepreneurial skills."
He emphasized while FFA does teach those skills, so many children going to public schools in Kentucky just don’t get any type of entrepreneurial training. He hopes these projects will do just that, and that consumers will purchase this food.
He thinks businesses will indeed support the project and this event is just the first step of many positive events for these young people.
The Parkland program was funded by proceeds from an auction of misappropriated items obtained from former state ag commissioner Richie Farmer, held last May. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kentucky provided additional funding for the project.