Indianapolis high school students give back through summer farming program

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INDIANAPOLIS – With the help of a grant and several donations, an Indianapolis farmer will teach a group of high school students some important lessons on his farm that he hopes they will share with their families, friends and neighbors.

The summer employment program not only puts teens to work, it also makes sure several social service organizations receive fresh produce on a weekly basis at no charge.

“We have highways and buses,” said Zyanna Brown, a high school student in Indianapolis who admits the farm is in an unlikely place.

“We learned to harvest, plant seeds, tend beds and fertilize,” said Jamie Brocks, another high school student.

Local farmer Matthew Jose is behind the program. He’s partnered with Farm Works Indy, a local organization focused on a youth employment and mentoring program that is paying the teens’ wages.

“This is a completely new injection of fresh produce into their lives,” said Jose, who owns and operates Big City Farms.

Several area social service organizations are also getting bundles of vegetables each week thanks to additional donations from individuals and a nearby church.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, rhubarb! Swish chards! Fresh beets!’” said Larmarques Smith, an employee with the Damien Center who helps run its food pantry.

“They just can’t afford the fresh vegetables,” Smith said, adding that his clients are thankful for the free produce that’s delivered to them each week.

Jose said the teens are not just learning skills needed for a farm. He believes those skills are preparing them for their next job.

“Showing up on time, learning to follow directions and completing a task,” he said.

The teenagers also get to take home vegetables that they are sharing with family, friends and neighbors.

“We don’t know what to do with it, but we just search the internet,” said Elisha Mundy, a high school student who said his family has been cooking healthy meals together.

“I want to build a homeless shelter, and it would be great to harvest and grown my own food,” said another student who’s planning for her future after college.

Only a few students could be accepted into the program, which runs completely on donations. Jose said he would like to expand it next year, and hopes for the community’s support. For more information, visit the website for Big City Farms.

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