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boy works in garden

One of the youth garden members turns soil in preparation for planting. Although none of the youth had any gardening experience prior to joining Keepin’ it Fresh, by the end of the summer they were all experts in growing and selling

their produce.

Keepin' It Fresh Community Garden

West Marion, NC

McDowell County

In 2016, the West Marion Community Forum noticed that there were two things missing in their community: fresh produce and job opportunities. They decided to do something about both issues by starting a community garden led by local youth. Addie’s Chapel United Methodist Church hosts the garden, and two other churches, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church and Mt. Zion AME Church, agreed to support the garden with time and monetary donations. The land for the garden was donated by a community member. All three churches did outreach to recruit 5 youth to work in the garden over the summer. The youth received a small stipend, and learned how to grow food from local community members.


Along with caring for the garden, the youth learned basic business skills by selling their produce at church mini-markets. The garden was so successful that they soon had more vegetables than they could sell! They set up shop at the Historic Marion Tailgate Market, where their produce was so popular that they almost always sold out.

The youth did not just grow produce to sell; they donated at least 10% of their yield to families in need. They also harvested unwanted potatoes at a nearby farm and donated this food to low-income residents. This process, called gleaning, reduces food waste by donating produce that farmers cannot sell.


The youth fed many hungry people through their produce donations. However, by also selling their produce and raising money, they ensured their garden could continue and expand.

Here are some steps to take if you’d like to start a youth-led garden:

  • Connect with Youth: Keepin’ It Fresh recruited youth from local churches. You could also talk to local schools, homeschool groups, and 4H to find interested youth.

  • Identify a Location: The garden is in a central part of West Marion, which makes it easy for people with limited transportation to receive fresh produce and for the youth to participate.

  • Build Partnerships: Lowe’s Home Improvement Store donated supplies to build the garden. The City of Marion and a local Boy Scout troop donated a community bulletin board/bench, and the First Baptist Church built a foot bridge to make it easier to get to the garden.

  • Find Produce Outlets: Keepin’ It Fresh planned to sell and donate their produce. When they had trouble selling at their own market, they teamed up with a larger farmer’s market to reach more customers.




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