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Produce Project employs students from Troy High School to operate a year-round urban farm and to sell their harvest at markets. In addition to learning life, job and entrepreneurial skills, each student earns school credit, a stipend and a share of the farm’s bounty to share with their families.
Capital Roots’ Produce Project is a year-round life skills and job readiness training program that increases employment and educational opportunity for urban youth. Students are given a stipend and school credit for operating three acres of farmland, two of which overlook Troy’s historic downtown. Two greenhouses provide sheltered space for the trainees to work in all year long. The farm provides a safe haven for students after school throughout the year and during the summer.
A growing demand for local food and climbing city populations have given rise to the urban agriculture industry. High demand and community support create an inviting environment for Produce Project trainees to learn the basic job skills they need to stay competitive in any industry.
Many students struggle in the traditional classroom setting. The Produce Project’s hands-on use of math and science and application of horticultural concepts at the farm helps youth relate to their work and stay engaged in their own education.
Many students are already responsible for preparing their household’s meals before enrolling in the Produce Project, however, the inaccessibility of fresh food in urban areas and dietary misconceptions can impact the nutritional value of what teens prepare for their families. This became an alarming concern for Capital Roots when an 18-year-old student told us that he had never eaten a carrot before and his mother, who was 8 months pregnant at the time, admitted to having not consumed vegetables in three years.
With produce readily available on the farm, students learn about the nutritional benefits of fresh food while acquiring an appreciation for the taste of local fruits and vegetables. Students are given a harvest share to bring home to their families so that everyone in their household can benefit from the nutritious food the students proudly grow themselves.
Working together with their peers to grow, sell and prepare food, Produce Project trainees practice important life skills that will help them navigate through the relationships they form throughout their lifetime.
Each week the students have various opportunities to share what they’ve accomplished on the farm with the larger community. They develop business skills and meet potential employers by networking with restaurants they distribute to and customers that shop at their farm stand and their booth at a local farmers market.
Capital Roots partners with local farmers, food distributers, chefs, colleges and horticulture experts to host educational field trips throughout the year. The Produce Project frequently hosts family-style dinners for the students, their families, neighbors, and volunteers at the farm and at Oakwood Community Center in Troy. The students serve the community meals they help to prepare, using their own harvested produce and donations from community partners and Capital Roots.
Our goal at The Produce Project is to encourage students to recognize their own potential for leadership and to nurture the self-confidence they need to take action when opportunities present themselves. The various skill sets we nurture in youth culminate in an entrepreneurial mindset that can help them attain leadership roles, both on the farm and in the next chapters of their lives.
Trained and dedicated youth are invited to assume leadership positions on the farm, where they can gain experience helping to train new students and volunteers.
Whether they pursue higher education or discover new employment opportunities after graduation, we enjoy celebrating the many successes our students experience as they move on to apply the skills they’ve learned to new challenges. Our hope is that the skills they acquire through The Produce Project will drive them to continually set new life goals and to take action to make them realities throughout their lifetime.
Capital Roots’ Produce Market at the Urban Grow Center.
The Produce Market at the Urban Grow Center is open weekdays from 9:00am to 5:30pm and is located at 594 River Street, Troy.