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Spotlight on Loveland Youth Gardeners

By Dan Booth

Over the years, Fort Collins Nursery has had the honor of working with and supporting many wonderful non-profit organizations in Northern Colorado. One of these groups is the Loveland Youth Gardeners whose mission is to empower youth facing challenges to cultivate life/work skills, environmental stewardship, and community service. The Loveland Youth Gardeners are close to wrapping up their first season on their brand new farm and we want to shine a spotlight on this amazing organization and talk a bit about their new home. 

Youth Summer Program

The Loveland Youth Gardeners summer program works with teens aged 13-18 who face barriers to success in their lives (special needs, at-risk for not graduating, behavioral/emotional challenges, living in poverty or single parent homes) and provides them with opportunities through horticulture therapy and goal orientation. Participants grow their own gardens and are taught a gardening curriculum which emphasizes sustainable horticulture practices. 

They also develop valuable job and life skills such as responsibility, teamwork, communication, problem solving, sales, and leadership. Other tangible benefits from the program include earning a work stipend twice per summer, earning science and community service credit, and gaining employment from their work experience. This year there were 22 participants in the program and two of them have already landed jobs!

  • Youths who are interested in the gardening program can apply here.

The Farm

After losing their previous farm site to flooding, The Loveland Youth Gardeners began the process of relocating in October of 2020. The city of Loveland helped find and secure over ½ an acre of land on an abandoned BMX bike track next to the Boys & Girls Club of Larimer County located on E 1st Street in Loveland. After the site was scraped by the City of Loveland, they had to disk and till the soil to address compaction issues. Next they brought in 2 trucks full of 60 cubic yards of compost to heal the soil for their in-ground farm beds. Funds were raised to build and install 20 new raised beds for the garden in January. Gravel paths were added to make the space ADA accessible and the City of Loveland provided mulch to keep weeds down on all unused areas. The whole project took a lot of volunteer and community support to finish but the farm was completed in time for the start of the 2021 summer gardening program and spring season!

Today, the site hosts a potting shed, a greenhouse, and a farm stand for the youth participants to sell their produce on Saturday mornings. They have bees, chickens, and worms for vermicompost. So far this year, the farm has produced over 700 lbs of fresh produce! Each participant can take home what they want and decide what to sell and donate from their own personal beds. The group donates 40-50 lbs of produce a week to the AIMS Community College Loveland campus food pantry. Students of AIMS have the opportunity to grab some fresh veggies to take home, and the kids have the opportunity to get acquainted with the college admin and professors. They also donate a large amount of produce to the Larimer County Food Bank and House of Neighborly Service as part of the Grow & Give program that addresses food insecurity in Colorado by connecting backyard and community gardens to food donation sites across the state. The remainder of the produce is sold at the farm stand and profits go back into the Loveland Youth Gardeners programs. Future plans for the farm include selling plants, eggs, and honey as well as selling herbs to restaurants as they did in the past prior to the pandemic.

Support

The Loveland Youth Gardeners need and love volunteers! They are currently looking for volunteers to help with tasks like weeding and watering and will provide volunteers with eggs & produce in exchange for help. Additionally, they can always use help with their youth programming and volunteers for their garden tour and urban homestead tour committees. They are currently looking for homesteads to participate in their Urban Homestead Tour as well and you are encouraged to nominate yourself or your neighbors. If you don’t have the extra time to dedicate, financial donations are always welcome as well.

  • If you are interested in volunteering, please click here for more information.
  • If you are interested in donating, please click here for more information.

Originally published on August 31st, 2021.