When Hollywood portrays a conflict between city dwellers and country folk, the sophisticated city slicker often loses to the common-sense country bumpkin.
Locally, Community Ventures Corp. and partners Fifth Third Bank and Fayette County Public Schools are writing a new story line featuring a hybrid character that melds the best of both those worlds in hopes of appealing to a young audience.
The Youth Entrepreneur Development Summer Program teaches young people from the inner city how to grow vegetables, manage the land, develop a business plan, harvest the crop and sell the produce for a profit.
"Exposing our young people to this form of education will spur their interest in careers in the agri-sciences," said James D. Coles, executive vice president of Community Ventures Corp.-Lexington.
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This is the second year for the program. Last year the young people worked only from the retail end, selling produce grown by others at East End Community Farmers Market. They sold items for a profit and shared their gain.
Based on participants' feedback, Coles said, the program was expanded, making it more hands-on from start to finish. Because they share in the profits, the youth wanted to learn about pricing and how to increase those profits.
"If they can grow their own, they can eliminate the middleman," Coles said.
Community Ventures selected 15 youth, ages 14 to 18, for the program. Three are returning from last year. They all submitted letters of recommendation from a school official, wrote an essay and have no less than a 2.0 GPA. Coles said inner city youth were targeted because of their need.
The youth work and learn Wednesdays and Thursdays at Locust Trace AgriScience Farm, an 82-acre working farm and public school off Leestown Road. Classroom subjects include plant and land management, and veterinary science for small animals.
On Fridays, the group goes to Berries on Bryan Station, an organic family farm, to learn about organic farming. And then, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, they sell their produce at the East End market.
"They get paid for three days of work and they keep their net profits from what they earn on Saturday," Coles said.
The youth also are accepting donations of bumper crops from farmers to sell at the market.
Although the youth have been working since June 5, the program will have its celebratory launch Thursday, with free food and a concert. The young people will be there selling their produce as well.
Critical analytical thinking, math, science, budgeting, entrepreneurship and conducting business with the public are just some of the skills the youth are earning, Coles said.
And it doesn't hurt to have 15 youth gainfully employed during the summer.
There is more. Some of them gained an appreciation for sugar snap peas. "They are learning to eat healthier," Coles said. "They are learning the benefits of healthier eating habits."
The experience is another way to get fresh fruits and vegetables on the dinner tables of families living in the East End, which has been called a food desert.
It is amazing to watch how engaged the youth are in the process and how interested they are in where things come from, Coles said.
"It has sparked in them the understanding they can grow things and sell them in the marketplace," he said.
It's a concept most country folk already have learned.