Black-led Youth Agricultural Programs in PA

Young people will shape the future of agriculture and can inspire fresh interest in farming among generations to come. Farm camps and educational programs like 4H provide enrichment opportunities across Pennsylvania for young people considering career paths in agriculture. Among these initiatives, Black-led youth agricultural programs help to provide joyful, enriching experiences for kids and teens while bolstering land sovereignty, food justice and community strength for everyone, both now and in the future.

youth agriculture farm education

The challenges of being a Black farmer in America are many. Beyond misconceptions and isolation within the industry, there have been systemic barriers to necessary foundations like land and loan access, including the USDA’s widespread discrimination in its farm lending practices. The results of these difficulties are clear. According to the recent Census of Agriculture contrasting 2017 to 2022, the number of farms in the U.S. decreased by about 7%, while Black owned farms decreased by nearly 13%. Of the 880 million acres of farmland in the country, just .49%, or less than half a percent, is Black-owned, following nearly a century of tremendous land loss. However, community movements in land and food sovereignty, urban agriculture and farming and gardening education are shifting the tides.

Black farmers, agriculturalists and community leaders who persist, evolve and thrive are equipped as teachers for the next generation of farmers and agricultural professionals. Black-led youth agricultural programming in Pennsylvania strengthens young peoples’ connections to land and helps them understand the fascinating and empowering process of growing food. We’re spotlighting 13 Black-led agricultural youth programs in Pennsylvania, where kids and teens get their hands dirty and gain fun, in-depth agricultural and farming education from inspiring role models.

Eastern PA

Life Do Grow Farm by Urban Creators is a dynamic urban farm and creative commons in north-central Philadelphia with a farm, public park, outdoor classroom, community marketplace, artist venue and co-working space for local creatives and businesses. This neighborhood hub invites innovation, expression and opportunity for the local community through its varied educational programming. There are family first Fridays with free food and fun, after school enrichment, volunteer days for getting your hands dirty and community education on topics like foraging, mind-body wellness, and farm to table cooking. You can follow Life Do Grow Farm on Facebook and Urban Creators on Instagram for all the news and updates. 2316-50 N. 11th St., Philadelphia; no phone.

W.B. Saul High School of the School District of Philadelphia in Roxborough is the biggest agricultural school in the nation. It’s renowned for agricultural education with programs in horticulture, natural resource management, animal science and food science and processing. Families can reach out to liaisons for support and inquiries about this amazing place, where students gain a traditional college-prep education plus a whole lot more. Saul high schoolers are immersed in a 55-acre campus with working dairy barn, greenhouses, pastures, small animal facilities and a seasonal farm stand. Saul also offers AP courses and dual enrollment at local colleges and universities. 7100 Henry Ave., Philadelphia; (215) 400-3451.

The POP Learning Orchard at The Woodlands, directed by Sharon Appiah, is the educational hub of the Philadelphia Orchard Project. It is a one-acre demonstration orchard and edible plant nursery within the historic Woodlands along the Schuylkill River bank where the community can visit and participate in ongoing volunteer work days. POP runs many educational programs out of the Learning Orchard in addition to numerous on-site learning opportunities at schools and community centers throughout the city. Follow its Facebook and Instagram pages for more info. 4100 Woodland Ave., Philadelphia; (215) 724-1247.

youth agriculture farm education

Philly Earth is an environmental education, urban farming and agricultural workforce development program for young people at The Village of Arts & Humanities. They come together to learn on The Village’s demonstration farm, orchard, and other green spaces across its Creative Campus in North Philadelphia’s Fairhill-Hartranft section. Students participate in afterschool and summer internships to learn about permaculture and sustainable design, food sovereignty and culinary arts, appropriate technologies like rainwater collection and rocket stove construction, and also create organic home and beauty products. The program’s tenets are caring for Earth, for people and for a fair share of resources for all. It’s venue, the Village of Arts and Humanities, is a 38 year-old arts and community revitalization organization rooted in Fairhill-Hartranft with the mission of supporting artists and Black community residents to imagine, design and build a more just and equitable society. You can follow The Village Arts & Humanities on Facebook and Instagram. 2544 Germantown Ave. Philadelphia; (215) 225-7830.

A youth leader plants chard at the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden.

Rooted in the experience of the African Diaspora, the mission of the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden is to restore the critical, integral and deep relationship of its community with the land. Sankofa is part of a longer phrase meaning “to go back and get it,” in the West African Twi language. This initiative includes local youth, who can participate in a number of ways. Sankofa also offers a robust youth internship program for up to 25 high school students from Southwest Philadelphia. They learn all about farming practice, sustainability, food sovereignty, nutrition, food preparation and more through hands-on work (particularly in the summer) and a year-round curriculum. Sankofa also offers local families the opportunity to manage their own garden beds in addition to popular volunteer workdays, where parents can sign up with their children, with a waiver for all participants. Sankofa is part of Bartram’s Garden, a 50-acre public park open free daily. Find the Garden on Facebook and Instagram for tons of great programs and events. 5400 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia; (215) 729-5281

One Art Community Center elevates its community through programs, workshops and ceremonies focused on mind, body and spirit. Its program Youth STEP (Sustainability Training & Education Program) equips young leaders with knowledge and experience to holistically guide their communities. One Art Community Center, which you can follow on Facebook and Instagram, is currently endeavoring to establish an urban eco-arts village, Oasis, with community-building rooted in racial and social justice, wellness programming, and a CornerJawn by FarmerJawn. Anyone can donate to this transformative initiative. 1431-39 N. 52nd St., Philadelphia; no phone.

Junior MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences) is a pre-college program for students in grades 7-12, preparing them for careers in the agriculture industry. The nationwide program increases the number of underserved and underrepresented students attending and graduating from college, and has two chapters in Pennsylvania. The Fox Chase Farm chapter brings culinary students from local high schools to the farm annex to make soups, salads and more delicious recipes. The Philadelphia Coalition Chapter is a cooperative between The U School, agricultural-ed champion W.B. Saul High School and Lankenau Environmental Science Magnet High School. You can follow MANRRS on Facebook and Instagram for more info and updates. Nationwide; (404) 347-2975.

Hand 2 Hand Farm provides children with the opportunity to experience urban farming, engage with animals and the outdoors and have fun while doing it! It offers free riding lessons, a petting zoo, an annual camping trip, and seasonal festivities for the whole family. All of its animals are cute, but the sweet, gentle ponies are the stars of the show as kids ride them and brush their hair. Watch for fun announcements on its Instagram page. 5307 Westminster Ave., Philadelphia; no phone.

Western PA

Oasis Farm & Fishery is a Black-owned, urban bio-market garden in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood offering urban farming education to all ages in addition to hyper-local produce. The amazing space includes an outdoor classroom, outdoor kitchen with brick pizza oven and an African American heritage garden in addition to its impressive hydroponic, aquaponic and solar systems. Tacumba Turner manages programs here, which include tours, lessons and field trips focusing on agriculture, alternative energy, stormwater management, nutrition, cooking skills and more. In “Beneficial Bugs,” students learn about how insects and spiders are essential to our ecosystems, in “Stormwater Management,” students learn about effects and solutions for stormwater runoff in the city, designing their own Lego city with green infrastructure and in “Parts of the Plant,” students prepare a stir fry with farm-grown plants and herbs. Other initiatives have included Better Food Better Me, providing basic gardening education to young kids and The Urban Farming Academy for teens and young adults. Follow Oasis on Facebook and Instagram to keep tabs on its fantastic programs and opportunities.

Grow Pittsburgh’s numerous community gardens and urban farms produce over 75,000 pounds of food annually. The organization advances its mission for region-wide locally-grown food with a great variety of educational offerings led by staff passionate about urban ag. Programs include school garden development and resources, Urban Farmers in Training (UFIT) youth program and the Backyard Farm School series of events like How to Grow a Culinary Herb Garden, Flower School and Raising Chickens. You can stay tuned in to Grow Pittsburgh’s offerings through its Facebook and Instagram pages. 6587 Hamilton Ave., #2W, Pittsburgh; (412) 362-4769.

Garfield Community Farm conducts numerous farm tours, classes and field trips in a restored three acre lot in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The organization aims to advance food sovereignty and environmental justice through access, partnerships and engaging programming under the leadership of Community Education Coordinator Vania Arthur. Young people can volunteer to farm at Garfield, add to the community-fueled composting system, and check out its new seed sharing library. On the horizon is a you-pick herb garden and youth environmental justice curriculum, currently being piloted, among other impactful educational programming for kids and teens. Keep tabs on the many goings-on of Garfield Community Farm on its Instagram page. 601 N. Aiken Ave., Pittsburgh; (216) 785-4915. 

Kincaid Community Garden is a hub for play, learning and gathering with a focus on building capacity in youth and community-led transformation of vacant space in Pittsburgh’s Garfield and nearby Bloomsfield neighborhoods. It’s co-lead by Vania Evangelique, Head of Communications, Art & Production and Kuwame Kinsel, Head of Construction, Design & Education and native of The Hill District. Kincaid offers a variety of workshops and classes, like Youth Pollinator Garden and open work days Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, when kids can care for newly growing plants, build garden beds and just hang out. Youth and their families design, plan, build, celebrate and sustain projects together to strengthen and engage with their community. Stay up to date by following Kincaid’s Facebook and Instagram pages. 5409 Kincaid St., Pittsburgh; (484) 767-1149.

Ebony Evans, or Farmer Girl Eb, is a farmer, grower and educator in the Pittsburgh area, where she grew up. She combines Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and background in elementary education with a love for growing, gardening and farming as Farmer Girl Eb. Evans offers a variety of hands-on courses about naturally growing and harvesting food, and how to make things like herbal book markers, decorative garden art and elderberry syrup. She also provides consultations for all level growers, teaching you how to set up a home garden with a plan for soil health and troubleshooting common problems, as well as how to develop a home composting system, with the option for ongoing support. Follow her Instagram for pics and inspiration! 1 Noblestown Rd, Pittsburgh; (412) 458-1780. 

  • Feature photo and Philly Earth photo: The Village of Arts and Humanities
  • Sankofa Community Farm photo: Alan Brian Nilsen/GlaxoSmithKline
  • All other images: courtesy of their respective organizations