urban teen gardeners

The Ithaca Children’s Garden (ICG) is an award-winning public children’s garden free and open to all every day of the year, from dawn to dusk. Its mission is to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, and does so through authentic, hands-on, child-led engagement with the natural world. 

Ithaca Bakery is a local destination that has stood the test of time and remains today one of the busiest eateries in town. And so it made perfect sense for these two Ithaca favorites to work together in the best interests of our community. Ithaca Bakery donates cold brew coffee to be sold at the garden’s Teen Urban Farmers (TUF) Farm Stand Café all summer long. Emmy’s Organics macaroons, other drinks, healthy snacks and new ICG merchandise will also be available for purchase. Pete's Dandy Mart supplies daily ice needs. Feel free to enjoy your refreshments on the new Farm Stand patio area, which was made possible by support from the Haslinger Foundation out of Akron, Ohio. All proceeds from sales at the stand will go toward providing critical support for the TUF program. 

"Ithaca Bakery has been a phenomenal partner to ICG over the years,” Erin Marteal, executive director of ICG, said. “They understand what we are doing at the garden, which is investing in the environment and also in the youth and teens who will lead us into the future, and they actively support that work in a way that is meaningful. We love the gift of cold brew coffee because it gives multiple times: once for the teens to learn about business and entrepreneurial skills; once when staff, camp parents and visitors who buy it and improve their experience at the garden with a cold coffee; and once when we are able to reinvest the proceeds back into supporting this job skills program.”

Marteal said ICG serves more than 70,000 people a year, and with support from partners like Ithaca Bakery the mission to faciliate people spending time outdoors and in nature is easier.

Ithaca Bakery’s Ramsey Brous said, “Originally, the Ithaca Children’s Garden came to us in 2018 asking to buy iced coffee to sell at the Farm Stand. Being huge fans of the garden since its inception (and before), I suggested that we do a donation instead. We started supplying them with iced cold-brew coffee on a daily basis shortly thereafter and have continued to do so for the 2019 season. It is gratifying to be able to help in this venture.”

The Teen Urban Farmers (TUF) is a weekly after-school volunteer program and six-week intensive summer program where teens take on leadership roles, providing key support for critical garden operations while learning basic job skills, which can range from carpentry and sales to working with children, composting, working as a team, solving problems, and persevering through all kinds of weather. The program empowers teens by building a strong work ethic and marketable skills in the areas of horticulture, entrepreneurship and leadership, and has been running continuously since 1999. It was previously known as the Youth Horticulture Apprenticeship Program. The partnership with Ithaca Bakery has helped them expand their work. 

Lauren Salzman, TUF program manager and outreach educator, added, "The TUF program is now in its 20th year as a summer job-training program for teens, so the number of young people impacted by this program is huge. The generosity of Ithaca Bakery has allowed us to expand Farm Stand operations from one day per week in the past to six days per week in 2019. The teens are excited to provide high quality drinks, snacks, and merchandise to visitors and also learn about customer service and running a small business." 

TUF’s teens come from diverse backgrounds and bring unique languages, heritage, and cultural perspectives to their work at ICG. Sophie, age 14, will be going to Ithaca High School in September and she said, “Working at the Ithaca Children’s Garden and Farm Stand for four hours per week is my first job, and I feel it is a good opportunity for me to learn to interact with customers." 

To learn more about the program, please visit https://ithacachildrensgarden.org/education/teen-urban-farmers/.  

ICG’s Farm Stand is run by TUF, who sell fresh produce and cut flowers during the summer. All produce is grown organically and sustainably grown by youth and teens. The stand is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday until Aug. 31. It is located at the entrance to the Garden, 121 Turtle Lane at Cass Park. And, as is so often the case, “it takes a village,” so special thanks go out to Kristen McClellan and Snappy Screens for the donation of the structure, Alan Vogel and friends for retrofitting the shed into a functioning Farm Stand, and Steve Austin for installing a rain catchment system.

The Ithaca Children's Garden is an oasis of learning, skill-building, teamwork, productivity and good old-fashioned fun. Remember those crazy days of summer, just playing the the dirt? Well, head back in time and do it all over again at the garden and stop by the TUF Farm Stand for a beverage and snack. 

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