Nestled into the Waterfront South community of Camden, New Jersey, are gardens, orchards, and a greenhouse. Programs arise from these resources that benefit the entire community and educate its youths on being environmentally responsible.
Since 2007, the Center for Environmental Transformation has been providing area youths with essential training and education about sustainable food production, rainwater management, waste recycling, and teamwork.
A grant from Subaru of America Foundation helped support this community and its young people through the Eco Intern program, where youths ages 14 to 19 are employed. They receive training, job skills, and leadership development. They work in the gardens and facilities, run the farmer’s market, and prepare recipes with their harvest.
A major focus of the organization is doing programs with the kids and not just for them. It helps them to take ownership and pride in their work. “The point is to have the tools, support, and adult mentors to be whoever they want to be,” revealed Ari Rosenberg, urban farmer and educator for the Center for Environmental Transformation.
The Garden SEEDS (Service, Eating, Education, Diversity, and Silliness) program is available for kids beginning at age 9, with one class a week focusing on nutrition and cooking using both fresh and frozen harvest from their gardens. During the growing season, kids can participate in hands-on learning in the gardens by exploring food and where it comes from, along with bugs and soils and how they affect plant life.
Eco interns also have the option of going on to become an assistant farmer. That program focuses on adding responsibility in order to gain additional leadership skills. It helps them progress and grow, and it keeps them engaged in the community.