Building from scratch
About two years ago, some of the partners began looking at the space, which at that time was a baseball field, abandoned tennis court and mowed, green space.
“It kind of looked like humans disappeared, like one of those movies,” Holmberg said.
The four partners – Bartram’s Garden, UNI, Parks and Recreation and PHS – have since turned the desolate space into a 3.5-acre farm with a 1.5-acre crop field, heated greenhouse, 115-tree orchard and 30-bed [and counting] community garden. They grew 60,000 transplants for the PHS City Harvest Program
and gave away 10,000 -15,000 plants to people who wanted to start gardens in their own yards.
Through UNI, Bartram’s Farm was able to hire 12 Bartram’s High School students to work 10 hours per week during the school year and 17 high school students to work 20 hours per week during the summer.
“It’s a big space so we really do need the support of the young people,” Holmberg said.
In addition to farming, the program is a youth empowerment and youth development initiative and conducts college access, food sovereignty, and plant biology classes and workshops.
The students all have different reactions to the farm. Holmberg said one student was initially afraid of soil. Two months into the program, she was digging around at the top of a compost pile with no problem.
While it is hard to tell how the program impacts each student, “Part of the education program is planting seeds and who knows when they’ll grow,” Holmberg said.