Youth Farm Stands
Slow Food Denver and its partner, Denver Urban Gardens (DUG), developed a farm stand model on school grounds using fresh produce from school gardens and local farms. Youth Farm Stands (YFS) provide educational opportunities by reinforcing traditional academics such as math and science and building life skills such as customer service, conflict resolution, and entrepreneurship. The model also supports nutrition education training so that families can see the advantages of eating the fresh produce in their daily meals. Finally, YFSs support community-building as the stands become a gathering place for a school community and support the nutritional needs of that community.
A basic YFS is an after-school event run by older students and supported by adult volunteers. Typically held on a Thursday or Friday afternoon, the YFS team starts to set up the stand an hour before school ends. A group of students harvest fresh produce from the garden under the supervision of adult volunteers while a second group sets up a farm stand on several tables and under a pop-up tent. The produce is displayed with signage indicating the source of the fresh fruits and vegetables and the price. YFS setups can include wicker baskets or metal tubs, or simply being spread out on a table. A simple cash box allows for students to accept cash and return change. Once the bell rings, families gather at the stand and students work one-on-one to sell the produce.
To increase the range of produce items being sold at the stand, Slow Food Denver and DUG developed a distribution system in which a rental truck was driven to nearby farms on Thursday morning to pick up cases of fresh produce items that are difficult to grow at school, such as corn, watermelon, broccoli, peaches, and apples. Individual school stands placed their orders earlier in the week for this produce and are able to pick it up at a central cooler that DUG operates. Schools pay the wholesale price for the produce and can mark it up to make a profit for the garden program.
The YFS model has been very successful in getting fresh produce into neighborhoods that have limited grocery stores and in raising money for the school garden program. Slow Food Denver has been successful with two Specialty Crops Grants from the CO Department of Agriculture to support YFSs in food desert areas and promotions in these neighborhoods to increase the purchasing of the fresh produce. In addition, across an 8-week season, YFSs can earn anywhere from $200-$3,000 for the garden program to be used to buy supplies for the next season.