Growing North Minneapolis: Connecting youth and community through garden-based experiential learning

Mary Rogers, Illana Livstrom, Brandon Roiger, Amy Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Growing North Minneapolis (GNM) is an urban agriculture and youth development summer program sited in the North Minneapolis, MN, neighborhood. The program is a university–community partnership between faculty at the University of Minnesota (UMN) and North Minneapolis community partners. We leverage resources from the city of Minneapolis Step-Up program to recruit, train, and employ youth (14–15 years old) who face barriers to employment—particularly youth from low-income families, youth of color, youth from immigrant families, and youth with disabilities. Youth interns are placed in a 10-week-long summer program and are matched with undergraduate student mentors from the UMN and North Minneapolis gardener mentors. The undergraduate students and garden mentors work together to lead teams of youth and work in multiple urban garden sites located in North Minneapolis, a designated low-resource community in the metro area. One of our goals is to develop leadership experience for UMN undergraduate students and improve food and horticultural skills among urban youth through garden-based education. Learning is experiential and contextualized in the various community garden sites through activities focused on food justice and accessibility, food production systems, and horticultural science. Youth learning and development outcomes are reported based on written postprogram qualitative survey questions prompting youth to identify what they learned throughout the program, what they enjoyed the most, and what challenged them after the summer program in 2018. Our results show that youth participants learned across multiple domains of knowledge and valued the social interaction offered by the in-tergenerational mentorship structure. The GNM program can serve as a model for garden-based experiential learning with early high school youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-30
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
2Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota, 159 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455 3Agricultural Education, Communication and Marketing, University of Minnesota, 146 Ruttan Hall, 1994 Buford Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108 Funding for this program was provided by the Greater Twin Cities United Way Full Lives grant program (funded in 2017–18).

Funding Information:
Six Northside gardener mentors committed to working in garden teams alongside UMN undergradu ate students through the duration of the program. These mentors were identified by a project partner and community organizer with long- standing ties in the community, and were older neighborhood residents active in the community and had experience gardening. They chose to participate based on their interest in community gardens and working with youth. The role of these mentors was multifold. We recognized the need for Northside gardeners to serve as a bridge for the university to the community, and to provide perspec tive and context to the place-based gardening program. In addition, we relied on Northside garden mentors to provide basic horticultural and gardening knowledge based on their years of practical experience. North- side gardener mentors were compen sated at $15/h for 20 h/week. Salaries for the UMN undergraduate students and Northside gardeners were paid via funding from the Greater Twin Cities United Way Full Lives grant program.


  • Community gardens
  • Horticultural education
  • Urban horticulture
  • Youth development


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