Program gives teens summer jobs gardening in north Minneapolis

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In Minneapolis, a group of teens are hard at work beautifying the north side of the city this summer.

The program, however, is about a lot more than just gardening. There is so much symbolism at work in the gardens. It’s about planting ideas, growing communities and food for thought.

The program is called Growing North Minneapolis, a collaboration of the north Minneapolis community with the University of Minnesota that began in 2015.

“It’s important to know not only how to grow food but to know why that’s important,” said Olivia Woker, a U of M senior.

Woker helps teach gardening, but also about the environment and pollution.

“And then we also integrate that into how gardening can help a community and knowing how to grow your own food is a vital part,” Woker said.

Raymond Jackson is the community leader of the group, of which there are six total, each managing three different gardens.

“The youth I speak with feel they’re doing something good, while also learning how to work a job because they’re all 14 or 15 years of age,” Jackson said.

Most importantly, a couple dozen north side teenagers get their first paying job out of the deal, working 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

It helps them learn responsibility along with sustainability.

“I think one of the important things is we’re learning about agriculture which I learned not a lot of people in the cities know about,” said one teen. “So, I’m glad I’m learning about this.”

The project is also helping beautify empty north side lots.