LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Eighteen-year-old Keira Ferguson doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. 

“Ever since I was a child, I was always in the dirt,” Ferguson said. She’s spending the summer working with the Food Literacy Project’s Youth Community Agriculture Program.

What You Need To Know

  • The Summer Youth Community Agriculture Program is a seven-week employment opportunity for Louisville teens 

  • The program equips the teens with skills including planting, cultivating, harvesting, and cooking 

  • Participants maintain vegetable farm fields, create recipes, and explore food systems in their communities

  • The team has harvested more than 500 pounds of produce this system.

“We’ve been harvesting, cultivating—which is a fancy word for weeding—and we’ve been doing field studies,” she explained. “Like we will go out to a farm or go to we compare like grocery stores and stuff like that.”

The program teaches teens how to grow and cook food. For most, it’s their first time maintaining a farm, but not Ferguson’s. 

“I live on a farm. I grow my own produce,” Ferguson said. 

Program farm manager Grace Mican has planted a fresh seed about food injustices in the mind of the experienced producer grower. She explained food deserts to the teens.

Over the course of the seven-week summer program, teens learn how to grow food and donate produce to neighbors in the community. (Spectrum News 1/Ashley N. Brown)

“In Jefferson County, the average residents per grocery store is about 12,000, but if you’re looking specifically in the West End of Louisville, it’s about one grocery store for every 24,000,” Mican said. “That some people have to travel so far for [healthy food] and then might not be able to find the highest quality or most affordable options close to home is a really big problem that we can see here in Louisville.”

Mican believes the program is giving teens tools to be advocates for change. 

“I think the sooner we start caring about some of these things, the deeper the impact that we can have throughout our lives. Whether or not these young folks go specifically into food system or agriculture-related work, they have a deeper knowledge about these issues that are happening, both in our community and on a global scale as well,” says Mican. 

The team has harvested more than 500 pounds of produce this season at the Shawnee People’s Garden.

The produce is sold at the Shively Farmers and Artisan Market.

The Farm Stand at the People’s Garden also accepts donations and “pay what you can” for produce.

Keira witnessed the impact of the work they are doing. 

“Every Thursday we have a produce stand or table and it’s free and the community can come out and get some if they need it,” says Ferguson.  

“This person got disability benefits, and they took away her SNAP benefits and she needed food and so she found our table and she got some free produce. She was so thankful, and she just was so happy.”

Ferguson says she has gained a new appreciation for what she’s been doing her whole life.  

The Food Literacy Project also leads Youth Community Agriculture Programs in the fall and spring. 

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this story, it was reported the food from the Youth Community Agriculture Project was donated. The organization reached out to Spectrum News 1 to clarify that only a portion of the food is donated.