In St. Petersburg, youth-led farm blossoms in a food desert

Justin Bowman has been a youth ambassador at the St. Pete Youth Farm since fall 2020. Bowman, a student at St. Petersburg Catholic High, says you learn hard work and responsibility at this youth-run urban farm in the heart of south St. Petersburg’s Midtown neighborhood. If it is your job to water the plants, and you don’t show up to do your job, the plants may well die.

“It teaches that everybody has to do their role,” Bowman says. That can-do philosophy runs through the St. Pete Youth Farm. 

After the departure of two grocery stores leaves Midtown a food desert, the City of St. Petersburg, the Pinellas Education Foundation, and the Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete partner to launch the youth-run farm as a pilot program in 2019. High school students such as Bowman spend approximately a year transforming an empty city-owned lot next to the Enoch Davis Center into a grid of planting beds with rich soil where fruits and vegetables can grow.

Today, the St. Pete Youth Farm continues to blossom and expand with the addition of a new greenhouse that will extend the growing season in a controlled environment, allow high school and college students to learn aquaponics and hydroponics farming, and produce more food for the community. The Fresh and Local Greenhouse project is a reality thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund, additional contributions from other sources, and a partnership with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus. 

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