Youth Community Gardening Programming as Community Development: The Youth for EcoAction Program in Winnipeg, Canada

By Fulford, Stephanie; Thompson, Shirley | Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research, Autumn 2013 | Go to article overview

Youth Community Gardening Programming as Community Development: The Youth for EcoAction Program in Winnipeg, Canada


Fulford, Stephanie, Thompson, Shirley, Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research


ABSTRACT

The Youth for EcoAction (YEA) program is a project of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg involving at-risk youth. This community development program focuses on urban agriculture and community gardening and was developed using the Circle of Courage pedagogy. The program was analyzed through participatory methods. YEA youth interns built skills, improved self-esteem, increased environmental awareness, enhanced food security, and fostered their own social networks to help counter the attraction to gangs and dealing with other issues. Benefits were also felt at a broader community level, through positive environmental, social, and physical changes. Youth-serving agencies, community development organizations, and government policy makers could look to the YEA as a model for youth empowerment and community revitalization.

RÉSUMÉ

Le programme Youth for EcoAction (YEA) pour les jeunes à risque est l'oeuvre des Clubs garçons et filles de Winnipeg. Il met l'accent sur l'agriculture urbaine et le jardinage communautaire. Les Clubs ont développé YEA en recourant à la pédagogie du Cercle du courage. Pour analyser ce programme, les auteurs de cet article ont employé une méthode participative. Pour les jeunes, les bénéfices de YEA incluent le développement de compétences, une sécurité alimentaire accrue et la formation de réseaux qui les aident à échapper à la tentation des gangs et autres problèmes. À un niveau communautaire, les bénéfices comprennent des améliorations environnementales, sociales et physiques. Pour les agences jeunesse, les organismes de développement communautaire et les stratèges gouvernementaux, le programme YEA peut servir de modèle d'autonomisation des jeunes et de revitalisation de la communauté.

KEYWORDS / MOTS CLÉS At-risk youth; Youth gardening programs; Youth employment; Youth empowerment; Community development / Jeunesse à risque; Programme de jardinage pour jeunes; Emplois pour les jeunes; Autonomisation des jeunes; Développement communautaire

INTRODUCTION

Can a community garden provide more than just vegetables? The Youth for EcoAction (YEA) program, an after- school gardening program, endeavours to grow not just food but also cultivate youth and communities through its work. This article analyzes the YEA program for its role in community development, considering the impacts on the participants and the broader community. The YEA program is an example of a "participatory, bottom-up approach to development" (Markey, Pierce, Vodden & Roseland, 2005, p. 2) with an emphasis on the capacity building of at-risk youth and community enhancement focused on community gardens in low-income communities.

Community youth development

Community youth development emphasizes youth participation in contributing to one's community. For the purpose of this research, community development is defined, as per Douglas (1994), as "communities addressing problems and opportunities, on their own behalf, which they perceive to be of importance to their quality of life or their community's viability" (p. 10). Self-sufficiency, decision-making, and ownership (Loxley, 1986) are key to community development and, in the context of youth activities, point to the need for opportunities to build skills and relationships. Douglas (1994) raises questions that take into consideration the role youth play in community development, asking: what is being developed and by whom, and how is it being developed and on whose behalf?

Although many youth programs see marginalized adolescents as a problem, youth become the problem solvers in youth community development programs (Trinidad, 2009). Most conventional youth programs, according to Trinidad (2009), aim for social integration, which focuses on changing individual skills and competencies as program outcomes. In contrast, youth community development programs provide opportunities through youth participation to shift power dynamics, and they encourage youth to take an active role in community building and social contribution. …

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