Category Archives: Youth Harvest

Garden Bed Mix Masters

This week, the Youth Harvest Crew spent some time in the Home ReSource shop learning proper tool use and building planter box kits for the Missoula Urban Indian Health Center.  The kits will be assembled and painted during spring classes at the Health Center.  The youth crew built 25 kits in just two mornings.

Check out Jason finishing his kit, using the jig — so fast!

Show your love for the PEAS Farm

Happy PEAS Farm lesson
Kids happy to get their hands dirty at the PEAS Farm

Join us on December 9th, 6 pm, at the MCPS Business Building, 915 South Avenue West!  And help us spread the word — and invite your friends, too!

The GCH/EVST PEAS Farm sits on 10 acres of Missoula County Public School land. Over the past six years Garden City Harvest has been working with the City of Missoula and MCPS on a new long-term lease for this property, including the 3 acres of playing fields south of the farm.

The end of this long process is in sight! The School Board will be considering a 40 year lease with the City of Missoula (who would then sub-lease to Garden City Harvest) at their board meeting on Tuesday, December 9th. Help us secure this community resource for 40 years to come by showing the School Board how important this is – whether you’re a parent, teacher, student, volunteer neighbor, CSA shareholder or just a fan of the PEAS Farm.  Filling the room with PEAS Farm supporters who are willing to simply stand in support of the farm, would show the trustees how beloved the PEAS Farm is to this community.

No need to comment, just come and stand with us. Garden City Harvest Executive Director, Jean Zosel and PEAS Farm Director, Josh Slotnick will comment, asking supporters to raise their hands to show they are there in support for the farm!

Student seeding
A visiting class helps seed the PEAS Farm on a spring time field trip. Photo by Mike Plautz.

The PEAS Farm is an outdoor classroom for students of all ages, from pre-school through university. We host 4,000 kids on educational farm field trips each year, and provide bus transportation. We grow tons (literally!) of food for the Food Bank, farm CSA subscribers, volunteer workers and more. This farm is a place where community members of all stripes come together to work, eat, and grow in the fields.

How to help:

The School Board will be considering a 40 year lease with the City of Missoula (who would then lease to us) on Tuesday, December 9th, 6 pm, MCPS Business Building, 915 South Avenue West. To see the agenda (we are #11) click here, and download the agenda.

Other ways to help:
1. Share this on Facebook: “Join me to support the PEAS Farm as they ask the Missoula County Public School Board for a 40 year lease on December 9th, 6 pm at the MCPS Business Building, 915 South Avenue West.”
2.  Call five friends and ask them to come to the meeting.
3. Email 10 friends and link to this blog post, inviting them to the meeting.

And thanks for being part of this community farm.

Many Youth Harvest students call Willard Alternative High home

Campos at Willard HighMissoulian article by Keila Szpaller, photos by Tom Bauer, 10/26/2014

Editor’s note
This year, the Missoulian had a reporter and photographer spend time with the Youth Harvest Project of Garden City Harvest, a nonprofit with a mission to build community through agriculture. Formed in 2003, the Youth Harvest Project is a therapeutic work program with a focus on service, and it hires eight to 12 teens each year to work on the PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake Valley. The PEAS Farm, Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society, is a program of Garden City Harvest and the Environmental Studies program of the University of Montana. It operates on land owned by Missoula County Public Schools and subleased to Garden City Harvest through the city of Missoula.

Skyler Villwock was bullied at a traditional high school for his weight and his speech impediment.

His brother had gone to Willard Alternative High School, and Villwock’s mom recommended he enroll there, too.

“Going to Willard changed our lives. I’m kind of glad my mom knew about Willard,” Villwock said.

This year, Villwock was one of 12 teens who worked for the Youth Harvest Project of Garden City Harvest. Youth Harvest is a therapy and service program that puts teens to work on the PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake Valley.

Most of the crew members came from Willard this year, and over the course of the season, as they weeded around cabbage heads in the field and bagged beets for the Missoula Food Bank, their school was a frequent topic of conversation. When Karrina Campos first told her dad she wanted to go to Willard, she said he advised her against it, noting the bad reputation of students there.

This year, Campos’ father encouraged her to not work while school was in session so she could focus on her classes at Willard.

As far as many teens are concerned, Willard Alternative High School is a rock.

“Willard is like a family almost,” said Cody Lesh.


One morning last week, Cecil B. Crawford stood on a small hand-woven rug on the steps outside Willard at 901 S. Sixth St. W. Crawford, a Native American specialist for Missoula County Public Schools, shook hands with every single student in his morning ritual. “Sometimes, it’s a fist bump.”

“A lot of these guys go through a lot of trauma. A lot of them have never been told, ‘Good morning,’” Crawford said.

He greets them for himself and for them. It makes him feel good, he said, and it allows him to take the temperature of the student body.

“I can tell if a student is having a bad day. I can nip it in the bud right there,” Crawford said.

Just the other day, a couple of parents walked up the steps where Crawford stands on the rug that was made for him by a student. He thought the parents were going inside the building, but they stopped by just to tell him their child had a paper to write, and the student had written about Crawford’s influence.

“This could be done at every school,” Crawford said of his good mornings.

Inside, Campos ate breakfast during her life skills class with Carolyn Grimaldi. The topic of the day was Facebook, and the eight students talked about its pros and cons.

“A con will be people will be misunderstood a lot because there’s no voice inflection,” Campos said.

Campos and Villwock

Grimaldi tells them even if they don’t like Facebook, they can use their knowledge of it as a skill when they apply for jobs. Many companies want to hire people who can run their social media pages, she said.

The students tell her they would rather learn about banking and renting apartments and applying for scholarships. They ask about an absent classmate.

“There was a death in (her) family, so we’ll be really nice to her when she comes back,” Grimaldi said.


Early in the season on the farm, Youth Harvest director Laurie Strand Bridgeman talked with the crew in the barn about work expectations. She told them she knew they had attendance and behavior standards in school, and crew member Katelyn Cox chimed in to note it’s harder to pass classes at Willard.

“You have to have your grades higher than at other schools,” Cox said.

There’s also less homework, Campos said. At her other school, she had “all this pointless math,” 64 problems a night sometimes, and at Willard, she can complete her homework in class.

“Willard is awesome like that,” Campos said.

On the farm, she and other crew members talk about cliques, getting bullied and being ignored by teachers – essentially, getting swallowed up by an institution. The alternative school has shortcomings, too, but they appear to be lost on the students.

Every day on the farm, crew members share their highs and lows, and toward the end of summer, Sierra Gehring had school on her mind.

“My high is that school is about to start. Usually, that wouldn’t be a high, but since I’m going to Willard, I’m pretty excited,” Gehring said.

Former Youth Harvest project crew member returns as intern to work with teens

Missoulian article by Keila Szpaller, photos by Tom Bauer, 10/26/2014

Editor’s note
This year, the Missoulian had a reporter and photographer spend time with the Youth Harvest Project of Garden City Harvest, a nonprofit with a mission to build community through agriculture. Formed in 2003, the Youth Harvest Project is a therapeutic work program with a focus on service, and it hires eight to 12 teens each year to work on the PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake Valley. The PEAS Farm, Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society, is a program of Garden City Harvest and the Environmental Studies program of the University of Montana. It operates on land owned by Missoula County Public Schools and subleased to Garden City Harvest through the city of Missoula.

Hannah Ellison worked in the Youth Harvest Project of Garden City Harvest in 2006. This year, she returned to the farm to do an internship as part of her University of Washington studies in Law, Societies and Justice. Here’s an adapted question and answer with Ellison about her first season with the program and her return this year.

Q. How did you sign on with the Youth Harvest Project?

A. I had left home, and I had been doing drugs and living on the street. We had known Josh Slotnick, director of the PEAS Farm, because my dad had gone to college with him. My dad was considering putting me in foster care and some other things like that. I had been de-toxing in Roundup, and we were passing through Missoula.

Josh said, “Why don’t you meet up with my friend Tim Ballard, who started the program in 2003? Maybe he can help you.” So we met up with Tim Ballard in the Good Food Store. My father and I had a screaming match in the store, and Tim said, “Well, this isn’t going to work.” He took me on a hike in the Rattlesnake and told me about the program. He offered me a position to work and get paid on the farm. And I was ready for that.

Q. How long did you spend with the program? What was it like, and how did it affect you?

A. I did just that one summer. I also worked for Garden City Harvest’s farms on the Orchard Homes garden and at Greg Price’s River Road farm. That summer was magical for me. I had never had my own living area, so I had this apartment room that I was renting. It was the first time in my life where I’d had my own space. It was the first time in my life where I’d been treated by adults like I was someone who mattered, and my work, what I was doing with my hands every day, meant something to the people that were around me. So it was vital to who I am now.

Q. The teens this year talked about how you spent nights in Big Red, the panel truck on the farm. Is that true? Why were you doing that?

A. I was homeless. I lost that room. I was living on my own and putting myself through high school and I wasn’t 18 so I couldn’t sign a lease. I was camping up by the Rattlesnake Creek and sleeping in Big Red when it got cold.

Q. Why did you come back this year?

A. The Law, Societies and Justice program requires an internship. For years, I’d been wanting to go back to the PEAS Farm to volunteer and be a part of it and meet kids and see if I could help. I thought being on the other side of that life, I had something to offer them. The internship fit the criteria of the program because Youth Harvest is looking at harm reduction for these kids instead of just processing them in the system on this conveyor belt. And it was mostly a personal adventure for me. I was ready. The story didn’t end after I got out of the program. Life didn’t suddenly blossom and become this beautiful flower, but finally, I have become my full person. I’m 25. My daughter, Maya, is beautiful and 6. And I felt strong, I felt I could finally be something for someone else instead of just trying to take care of myself.

Q. What was it like to come back?

A. It was kind of weird. I felt like if I had been able to have a little bit more unstructured time with the kids, it would have been different. But every moment was so structured, there was no room for a genuine interaction. It felt strained. But I liked all of them for different reasons, and I was able to engage as a funny friend more than as a mentor. We laughed and bantered and talked about inappropriate stuff, and I think that was valuable to them, too, but who knows.

Q. Did the program have a lasting impact on your life?

A. I was a really troubled person. I was very self-destructive. I was so hurt by the world, and I had been so mistrusted and abused and just hurt, and almost every person I came in contact with wanted something from me. I came to the farm, and it was first of all, beautiful. And I simply worked all day and I made these beautiful relationships with these adults, these college students, and Josh and Ethan Smith, the operations manager, and all of these people who I got to see again this summer. And it was those relationships that were important. They would tell me how good I was doing, how strong I was, and I would look across the fields and know what I planted and when and with who. It was, again, that I mattered. Somehow, I mattered. I was important, and the work I was doing with others was important to them, too. That started a foundation for me for being a person.



Autumnal Apple Crisp

Last week, I had the privilege of accompanying the Mobile Market crew on their Tuesday afternoon rounds. I have been growing and harvesting food at Orchard Gardens for three seasons now, but it was the first time I saw our produce exchanged between the Youth Harvest teenagers and the senior citizens they serve.  The youth are professional  and friendly, definitely among the best purveyors of produce I have seen.  And I’ve worked a lot of farmer’s markets and grocery stores in my time.

Youth Harvest Director, Laurie Strand Bridgeman, picked us up in the highly-visible red box truck. Once we hopped insideand slung our backpacks on the ground, she presented us with an amazing apple crisp she had baked in her “twenty free minutes” before market. To me, apple crisp is one of the harbingers of autumn, and now that the equinox has passed, I fully recommend baking one.

In our last Orchard Gardens post, Sarah wrote about the peaches in the orchard. Before the peach harvest, Amy and I cleaned out a crab apple tree. The apples had been, er, aging, in my refrigerator since then (summer crops such as tomatoes and eggplant had taken precedent).  Luckily, the crisp extended their lives in a really tasty way!

I have fond memories of apple crisp from growing up, as it was one of three recipes my dad could manage to cook, and was often utilized to use up the bounty from his backyard apple and pear orchard. It is also rewarding to bake, as you probably have the ingredients sitting in your cupboard.

Last but not least, it will make your home smell amazing. Put on some folksy tunes (I recommend Sun Kil Moon), put a skillet of apple crisp in the oven, and make yourself a good cup of tea. Happy fall!

I adapted this recipe from Sunset magazine’s “Los Rios Apple Crisp,” which my dad uses. The original recipe uses all-purpose flour; I made mine with gluten-free oats and a gluten-free whole grain flour mix (although just brown rice or teff flour should work fine).


2 ¼ lbs. apples, cored and thinly sliced

½ cup cane sugar

4 ounces flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup oats

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup butter, cut into ½-inch chunks

¾ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2. In a cast iron skillet (or 9-inch square baking dish, or 1 ½-2 quart casserole) mix apples, cane sugar, 1 ounce of flour, and cinnamon.

3. In a bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, butter, and remaining flour. Mix with your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed (this is the fun part!). Stir in walnuts. Sprinkle evenly over apples.

4. Bake until apples are tender and topping is brown and apples are tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

5. Serve warm or cool; bonus points for homemade ice cream!

Looking Good, Northside!

Shane, of Youth Harvest, did a spectacular job in assisting with the compost pile turning!

Garden City Harvest’s Northside Community Garden had the honor of being included in the Missoulian Garden Tour last weekend, where visitors could enjoy a self-guided tour around the many gardens scattered throughout our fair city.  This past week, some volunteers from Youth Harvest and some Northside Garden Leadership Committee Members and gardeners helped out to beautify the garden.  The compost pile was turned, abandoned plots were cleaned up, and black plastic was put down to control weeds. Everything looked great!

In the next days, visitors walked around the plots and marveled at the flowers, the purple peppers, the artichokes, the huge heads of cabbage, and the pumpkins that have grown to the size of bowling balls, but have not yet turned their familiar orange. Visitors also enjoyed seeing other features of the Northside Garden including the food security plot (for neighbors in need to come and pick their own veggies, tended by volunteer gardeners and Garden City Harvest staff), the children’s garden, the fruit trees, the raspberry patch, and the community squash plot.

The favorite feature, however, was the hops tipi that stands beside the tool shed.  Everyone who saw the tipi wanted to go inside of it.  The tipi stirred the imaginations of these folks and made them wonder what they could do in their own backyards.

A big thanks to everyone who came to visit our wonderful garden and those who came to help make it even more beautiful than it was to begin with!

Youth Harvest teen presents at national summit

Jesse Linton
Jesse hard at work.

Jesse Linton left this morning for LA to present what a little about himself and his work with Garden City Harvest. It is a big deal for him, and for us.

Jesse first dug into the dirt two years ago at the school garden at Willard Alternative High School. His teacher saw how he flourished in the garden, and suggested he apply to work with Garden City Harvest’s Youth Harvest Project at the GCH/EVST PEAS Farm last summer. He did, and loved it so much he returned as an intern and mentor this summer.

This would be a big deal for any teen, and for Jesse, who has overcome some substance abuse and been what he calls couch surfing for over two years before moving back in with his mom, this is something of a life-changing opportunity. Jesse has been a natural leader all of his life, helping his single mom with the household when she was struggling with alcoholism.  He helped take care of his twin brother and two other siblings for several years, making meals and cleaning the house.

“You can almost see Jesse changing before your eyes,” said Laurie Strand Bridgeman, Director of the Youth Harvest Project. “He’s gone from a shy, quiet kid to someone with a quick smile and an encouraging word to peers and adults alike.”

The Youth Harvest Project works with six to eight teens each summer referred from the Missoula Youth Drug Court and Willard Alternative High School.

“I like knowing that when I showed up to the farm…that I was appreciated and accepted there.” Jesse said. “It feels great knowing I did something good. I don’t have to fake it. I enjoy being around all the plants.  I like the people.”

“These kids are working side by side with volunteers, university students, and Garden City Harvest staff,” said Youth Harvest Director Laurie Strand Bridgeman. “They teach each other about different parts of the Missoula community, different life experiences.” And they work together, bending down to weed the carrots.

This program changes lives. Digging in the dirt has been known to heal and teach.  These teens are living examples.  They also have weekly group and one on one sessions throughout the summer with Strand Bridgeman, a licensed clinical Social Worker.

Jesse says he feels drastically different since last April.

“I learned responsibility here,” he said. Time management, goal setting, and a connection to something larger than him – to people, to food. He likes the hard work.

That change has manifested in Jesse’s accepted application to conduct a 45 minute presentation at Rooted in Community’s 2013 Youth Leadership Summit in Los Angeles, California July 24 – 28 and Jesse will be presenting on the 25 or 26th.  He will be presenting on the Youth Harvest Project and Garden City Harvest.

The Rooted In Community National Network is a national grassroots network that empowers young people to take leadership in their own communities. Rooted in Community is a diverse movement of youth and adults working together and committed to fostering healthy communities and food justice through urban and rural agriculture, community gardening, food security, and related environmental justice work. This year’s conference focuses on stories that honor the inherent wisdom and social capital of our communities, including sustainable food production efforts. Youth and mentors will share tools to ensure that their community development efforts create leadership and equity, green jobs and youth social enterprise.

Jesse simply hopes that he will learn a little more about farming, gardening, and how he can make a living doing what he loves.  “I am excited about the experience it will bring me – it will only boost my knowledge so I can keep [farming] for the rest of my life.”

Bees at the PEAS Farm!

It's safety first for me when it comes to beekeeping. Photo by Samantha Dweck.

I don’t know about you, but I have been taking notice of a particular buzzing pollinator at my garden at the Northside Garden and at the PEAS Farm lately.  I’m talking about Apis mellifera, the honeybee.  These ladies (most bees, the worker bees, are female) have been hard at work at the pollinating all of the flowers that will soon become food for you and I at the community garden, rearing young, and producing beautiful amber honey.

Worker bees tend to the queen in her queen cage prior to her release into the colony. Photo by Samantha Dweck.

Finally, we have bees at the PEAS Farm.  After the Beekeeping Apprentice course I took through the University of Montana’s School of Extended and Lifelong Learning, which I highly recommend, I was hooked.  Having bees at the farm has not only been wonderful for their pollination value, but also for how much we all have been learning from them.

Many PEAS Farm interns and Youth Harvest interns have approached me with interest in helping out more with the bees.  I’m eager to pass this knowledge on.  It’s been amazing to learn how to work with the bees, rather than just manage them.  As someone, like many of us, who tries to juggle too many jobs and responsibilities in life, it has been nice to learn how to slow down, be present, and mindful of my movements when working with the honeybees.  Moving too quickly or handling the bees roughly increases your chances of being stung.

Being someone who has been stung 40 times at once, I had a slight bee phobia when I started all of this training.  But honeybees are not wasps, which are much more aggressive and can sting multiple times compared to a honeybee’s single sting, which is fatal to the honeybee.  Still, honeybees will defend their hive, so slow down and make it known that you are only a friendly observer.

Observing bees as they make repairs to their new hive - Photo by Samantha Dweck

Next time you’re at the PEAS Farm, marvel at the little colony of bees living near the orchard.  Watch as the honeybees travel in and out of the hive from their foraging flights, which can be up to two miles from the hive, and watch how other bees guard the entrance, or fan their wings to keep the hive at a constant temperature.  When you’re at your community garden, take the time to watch the bees bobbing from one bachelor’s button to the next in search of the choicest pollen.  Most of all, take the time to be thankful for all the food these little creatures help make possible.

Meet the Youth Harvest Project

Laurie, Morgen & the Big Red Truck
That's us in front of the Mobile Market delivery truck. We are so excited to load this thing up with veggies!

Thank you for your interest in the Youth Harvest Project!  We look forward to keeping you up to speed throughout the season on the exciting developments happening with this great program. Two sentences in and you’re probably asking, ‘what is the Youth Harvest Project’?

The Youth Harvest Project is a therapeutic, service-oriented, work program for Missoula teens. It is a collaboration between Garden City Harvest, The Human Resource Council, Missoula’s Youth Drug Court, and Willard Alternative High School. Each season Youth Harvest employs six to eight youth, half of which are referred by Missoula Youth Drug Court. The PEAS Farm – based program offers youth the experience of immersion in the dynamic community that comes together each growing season to grow high quality produce for the Missoula Food Bank and other community resource centers.

We seek to provide an atmosphere for youth to feel they are useful and work on the development of a strong sense of self. The Youth Harvest Project seeks to increase employment skills through mid-season job evaluations, goal setting throughout the summer, and the youth’s experience in running their own small-scale farm stand, the ‘Mobile Market’. Youth participants grow, harvest, and sell produce from Mobile Market (the giant, red, recommissioned milk truck) to six senior assisted living facilities throughout Missoula. In these ways and more, Youth Harvest is serving youth in innovative ways that build job experience, self-esteem, and strong community connection.

Stay tuned for updates as we begin our season on June 17th!

Morgen Hartford
Youth Harvest Project Coordinator
Laurie Strand Bridgeman
Youth Harvest Program Director

Garden City Harvest Around the Clock

A PEAS Farm intern cuts braising mix during a CSA harvest day.

Every morning, I bike my way up the steep hill on Duncan Drive to the PEAS Farm, where I am an intern and graduate in the Environmental Studies Program and teaching assistant.  I spend the entire morning on tasks including, but certainly not limited to, planting seeds in the greenhouse, laying down drip tape in the orchards, or weeding the vast rows of vegetables out in the fields.  I work alongside of about 15 other University of Montana students (and even a gal who has come all the way from Brown University!) learning from our wonderful instructor, one another, and from the land.  We learn about all of the vegetables we are planting from their origins and family names to how to harvest and prepare them.  We also learn about irrigation and how to care for the pigs and chickens on the farm.

Some goats come over to greet us at Ploughshare Farm in Moiese, Montana.

On Fridays, we go on a field trip to other sustainable farms in the region.  At the end of each class, two students pair off to prepare a delectable lunch with ingredients that could not be fresher.  These lunches are becoming even more satisfying as the days are growing warmer and busier as more vegetables must be harvested.


A community gardener is ready to plant some starts in his plot at the Northside Community Garden.

After I fill my belly with incredible food prepared by my peers (today’s meal was homemade tortillas, garlicky pak choi, heirloom barley, roasted beets and radishes, and a salad with plum dressing), I bike back down the hill to Garden City Harvest’s office, where I am an AmeriCorps member serving as assistant to the Community Garden Programs.  The goal of my term of service is to ensure that folks have a positive gardening and/or volunteer experience.  One of the ways that we do this is through a mentorship program for folks that need some extra help with their plots — often this is their first season gardening, ever.  We also do this through volunteer appreciation events.

As an AmeriCorps member, I also help improve the grounds of the community gardens and happy to have the opportunity to work with some Youth Harvest students on this task.

I'm ready to plant these lettuce starts in my community garden plot!

After I complete my tasks in the office and when I am not at the PEAS Farm managing the community supported agriculture (CSA program), which is an all day affair, I will head over to my garden plot in the Northside Community Garden.  I have had the pleasure to meet many of the gardeners there and have been grateful to trade some of my starts with some of the other gardeners.  There is such a thing as too much broccoli.  As the season progresses and the gardens become full and lush, it is truly a sight to behold.

What could be better than a backpack overflowing with a PEAS Farm CSA share? And that's a pretty nice hat, too.

As a student in the Environmental Studies program with a focus Sustainable Food and Farming, it can be easy to feel disheartened by the industrialized food system.  However, through my many roles with Garden City Harvest, I feel nothing but positivity as I live an alternative to the industrialized food system.  I am so grateful to be part on an organization that has such a far-reaching impact and does so much good for the community.  I look forward to what the rest of the growing season holds and all the community members I will meet through Garden City Harvest!