Thursday, July 31, 2008

Green Youth Farm Teaches Teens Organic Farming

A rough Chicago neighborhood is ''growing hope'' on a small patch of land where weeds have been replaced by fresh fruits and vegetables.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole reports in Lawndale -- where access to farm fresh produce can be limited -- seeds of knowledge have been planted.

"These little tomatoes are my whole section," Clifton Coleman said.

Sprouting now is an urban garden with lettuces, bitter greens of many shades, peppers and strawberries.

"It's an organic farm --- there's a high risk of any bug killing your plants because we don't use chemicals and fertilizers," Marquita Wheaton said.

It's all been planted and tended to every day by just 15 neighborhood teenagers, with little exposure to farming.

"I didn't even know what basil was before I worked here," Coleman said. "That's the strange part. And I didn't know you had to do all this to grow a tomato."

Chicago's Botanic Garden created the Green Youth Farm and wisdom has taken root; from the benefits of composting to the impact of heavy rain on zucchini.

"I was like, wow, that's shocking and amazing how the rain can make something grow that huge," Wheaton said.

Coleman is now an expert in harvesting tomatoes. "We pull them when they are like this size because if they get too big they lose their taste," Coleman said.

At a farm stand, the teens also sell the produce to the community. They'll brew sun tea flavored with their fresh basil, and cook up healthier lunches each week for the neighborhood -- an experience also changing the way they eat.

"I started eating a little bit healthier because I used to go the restaurant like almost every day and eat fast food," said Talonda Williams.

"I eat eggplant, I never eat eggplant," Coleman said. "I eat red lettuce."

All the results of the fruits -- and vegetables of their labor. The teens work an average of 20 hours per week and will earn about $1500 each by the end of the summer.

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