Emily Roberson has spent countless days working with local students who have visited the Youth Garden Project, but something one student told her is particularly striking. The school-aged volunteer told Roberson that amid the pandemic and all the challenges it presents, the garden – and the work he does there – was a space where he could feel calm and secure. peace. It was also a place where he could give back to the community.
âIt was really meaningful to be able to offer this to students,â said Roberson, who most recently served as executive director of the local nonprofit association. “Especially in a time when more and more things are happening online, I think it’s really, really important to provide engaging experiences for people of all ages to do practical and meaningful work.”
The organization released its YGP 2021 Community Impact Report, prepared by Roberson and former Executive Director Kaitlin Thomas.
In its 25th year, YGP set new records for the way they served students in local schools: the organization welcomed 793 kindergarten to sixth graders and 457 middle and high school students, taught a greenhouse management class for two periods per day, and organized 88 garden class field trips.
âAs YGP ages and reconnects with its roots in its 25th year, we are notably helping emerging adults engage in agriculture and the food system; encouraging them to explore their micro and macro implication in this work in their future communities â, indicates the report of the organization.
âApparently, we are doing agricultural education. But it’s so much more than that, âsaid Roberson. âIt’s a connection, it’s intergenerational knowledge, it’s offering a safe and united space. We give these kids the opportunity to take what they learn in class and apply it in a very real setting, and know that we trust them to make decisions.
Cara Grula, an agricultural science teacher and Future Farmers of America advisor at Grand County High School, has been taking students to YGP since she started teaching at GCHS three years ago. The benefit of taking students to YGP is to get them out of the classroom and allow them to do hands-on work, she said.
âI think hands-on learning is the best way to create meaningful learning,â she said. At YGP, students are able to create tangible results from what they are working on, and they work together to do it – “while we are working in the garden, I see the students having meaningful conversations to connect. with other students or community members, âGrula mentioned. “It’s really special to watch them grow in a way that doesn’t happen in the classroom.”
One of the biggest changes Roberson has seen in the garden since she was an intern in 2017 is its ability, both with volunteers and with food cultivation.
âMore and more people are committing and committing every week, like coming to every Weed n ‘Feed,â she said. âThere’s a lot of investment from our community in terms of the volunteer hours people put in, which is really cool and definitely helps our mission. “
In a city as close-knit as Moab, almost everyone has heard of the YGP and attended its events: Weed n ‘Feeds, pizza nights, garden dinners, and the annual harvest festival each fall. In 2021, the garden also welcomed 234 adult volunteers.
The ability to grow produce has also increased, Roberson said – online sales have increased and the garden has reached out to more local restaurants to sell produce. In 2021, the garden raised over 7,000 pounds of produce and donated 1,500 pounds. Most of the harvest went to the Garden’s Community Supported Agriculture program, with the rest going to various programs, events and sales.
âI think the direction that YGP has taken over the past few years is something that I’m really excited about,â said Roberson. YGP is a team effort, she said, her role being to find the resources necessary to achieve the long-term goals set by the organization’s board and staff.
The coming year is an exciting one for the organization – they will have two new full-time staff, a farm manager and a garden-based farm worker and educator, and will welcome two seasonal instructors.
âWhat I really want people to know is that the Youth Garden Project is a resource for the community,â said Roberson. âIf people have visions and ideas for us that they want to share, we want to hear them. I think the more opportunities we have to help our growth and development as an organization, the better. “
Roberson also points out that the garden is open to the public, free of charge. Everyone is welcome to stop and explore: wander the chicken coop, explore what’s growing, and maybe even grab a bite of something fresh.
âI really like telling people that,â she said.