The Department of Community Justice’s Juvenile Services Division, in partnership with the county’s Office of Sustainability, this month kicks off its youth-run farmer’s market season.
Starting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 11 at the Multnomah Building (501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland), members of the public can buy fresh produce and lush plants while supporting the life skill development of young people under the Department of Community Justice’s supervision. (See below for the full 14-date schedule for the markets through November.)
Produce for sale at the farmer’s markets is grown at the Hands of Wonder garden. There, juveniles between the ages of 15 and 18 gain hands-on experience cultivating, harvesting and selling vegetables.
Now in its second year, the farmer’s markets will have about seven Hands of Wonder program participants selling this season’s crop of tomato, summer squash and cabbage starts, as well as fresh kale, lettuce and more.
Apple, cherry, walnut and pear dwarf tree saplings will also be available for purchase, thanks to a generous donation from local tree farm, Motz.
Ten percent of all the produce available at each farmer’s market date will be set aside for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) recipients to take home free of charge.
All proceeds from the farmer’s markets go back into the Hands of Wonder Garden program stipend pool to compensate participants. Restorative justice coordinator Sidney Morgan, who oversees the program, hopes a successful farmer’s market season will grow the stipend pool and allow the program to accept more juveniles for future sessions.
“This program is my baby,” says Morgan. “I’m excited that this year we’ve had the largest recruitment of youth in the program yet.”
Morgan reports that on top of the increase in recruitment numbers, the Hands of Wonder Garden program has also seen a record number of young people successfully completing the eight-week-long sessions in 2014.
In fact, the current Hands of Wonder class is made up exclusively of students waitlisted from a prior session.
Prospective participants must first complete any restitution owed to the community and then be referred to the program by the Department of Community Justice employee designated to supervise them. Finally, participants must undergo an interview process before being accepted into the program.
In addition to the gardening experience, program participants can also expect to gain both tangible and intangible tools that will help them land a permanent job. Participants that successfully complete their sessions at Hands of Wonder walk away from the program with a food handler’s card, an employment reference letter and real-world interview experience.
Morgan says that in 2013, six juveniles that completed the program went on to later secure employment out in the community.
County Sustainability Director Kim Powe, who is helping coordinate the farmer’s market dates, explained how Hands of Wonder ingeniously incorporates all three pillars of sustainability, which focus on social justice, the environment and the economy.
“These farmer’s markets showcase the culmination of sustainability in action. It’s got everything.” Powe says. “Through the restorative justice model, youth are given the opportunity to give back to the community as opposed to using punitive measures to deter future offenses."
“They’re benefiting mentally and physically,” she says, “from growing, preparing and eating clean, healthy food, as well as learning the value of entrepreneurship.”
2014 Hands of Wonder Stipend Garden farmer’s market dates and locations:
- June 11, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Multnomah Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland
- June 12, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Multnomah Building
- July 2, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Juvenile Justice Complex, 1401 N.E. 68th Ave. in Portland
- July 3, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Juvenile Justice Complex
- August 13, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Multnomah Building
- August 14, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Multnomah Building
- Sept. 4, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Juvenile Justice Complex
- Sept. 5, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Juvenile Justice Complex
- Oct. 8, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Juvenile Justice Complex
- Oct. 9, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Juvenile Justice Complex
- Oct. 15, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Multnomah Building
- Oct. 16, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Multnomah Building
- Nov. 5, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Multnomah Building
- Nov. 6, 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., The Multnomah Building