Anchorage urban farm teaches young employees life skills

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A new urban farm in Anchorage is not only focusing on the growth of its greens but also the personal growth of its teens.

Within a 10,000 square foot warehouse in Spenard, rows of vertical hydroponic towers are tended to by a handful of young adult employees.

“When I'm looking through job applications, I'm looking for people with no job experience,” said program manager Seina Johndro.

Johndro said she hires youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in needs of life skills.

“This is not a forever job,” said Johndro. “This is part-time, short-term, like six-months to a year, with a goal of moving on to a better more permanent job within the community.”

Along with monitoring the health of the plants, maintaining the drip system and bringing the veggies to market, employees are taught how to develop into self-sustaining adults.

“We [learn about] tax returns, we learn about rental assistance, we learn about anything that the adolescence would need to learn before hitting adulthood,” said greenhouse farmer Marsana Davis.

Davis was one of the first people to be hired into the program.

“I came here with a lot of challenges, I was very fearful and scared of failing or disappointing,” said Davis. “This job allows you to expand you mind. It allows you to be open not only with other people but with yourself.”

Although employee development is an important aspect of the urban farm, Johndro said she is working to turn Seeds of Change into an independently viable business.

So far, the program has sold vegetables at a number of farmers markets, as well as supplied local restaurants like Spenard Roadhouse and Pangea with fresh veggies for their dishes.

“We are selling our produce to support our program, so that we can continue forever hopefully, so it's a financially sustainable program in the long run,” said Johndro.

Seeds of Change began planting its first round of crops in Dec. of last year. Johndro said she hopes to ultimately grow the max capacity for the warehouse and sell 50 tons of produce annually.