The Blackhawk Courts Farm and Garden is in its fifth year. It’s a resident-driven project, where they plan what they want to grow on a half-acre of land that produces more than food. Participants also learn business skills, leadership, how to make healthy meals for their families and how to create community in a housing development where cohesion can be difficult to build.

Meet Kenneth, a first year Youth Apprentice and former Youth Leader. Kenneth has been in Rockford for almost 2 years and the farm has been a major part of his time here. “When I moved to Rockford, I looked out my window and saw kids my age out there [in the garden] working. I wanted to know what they were doing and why. I started to go out there and volunteer. Then I was asked to be a Youth Leader. My favorite part of the garden is the people, but I also like the produce we have grown. I have tried red tomatoes, green peppers, and corn on the cob for the first time”.

Kenneth watches Yatte, the farm manager closely. “I respect his straight-forward management style. He is always using humor, but has still taught me a lot. He has helped me learn to show up and work, to stay committed to a task even if I am tired, and to work thought the heat”. Kenneth’s least favorite part of the farm is the heat. “It’s hard to be out there in the sun all day. It slows me down and my brain doesn’t work as fast. I wear a white t-shirt on my head and drink water. That helps”.

Kenneth plans to pursue a career as a lawyer. “I like to debate and I like the idea of defending people”. He notes, ” I think the things I am learning will help me in my future, even as a lawyer. The farm has taught me to be a overall better person”.

“One time on the farm we were having a market, a food give away, and samples of food from the garden, but no one was going to get samples. I had the idea to make a sign and direct people to the food. Some of the other youth did not support this idea, they even made fun of me, but I felt it would really work; so, I made a sign and it worked! So many people went and tried the samples we made from garden food. It was a huge success. I was happy and proud. I learned to trust my gut, even if other people say different”.