An Urban Farm in Fresno Seeks Investment and Engagement with Local African-American Youth

It’s about both harvesting produce and good work skills.

New Light for New Life Church of God in West Fresno established a small, but bountiful garden for a few dozen of its children and adult mentors to maintain. The year-round operation, named Freedom School Demonstration Farms, hopes to inspire its youngest cultivators to appreciate getting their hands dirty and working outside.

According to Salon, “The urban farming group meets on Saturdays during the school year and twice a week during the summer, including at least three farmers’ markets held at the church. Children also perform public service projects and give produce to seniors and others in the neighborhood. In addition to agriculture, the Freedom School teaches tangible job skills such as construction, landscaping, janitorial work, photography, journalism and video production.

“Dr. Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small farms advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service in Fresno, occasionally works with community programs like the Freedom School. ‘It’s a small group, but they are filling an important role in the food security of our communities,’ she said. ‘You’ve got projects like the Freedom School and the Sweet Potato Project [run by the West Fresno Family Resource Center] that are providing young people opportunities they might not have had in job development.’”

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