WORCESTER, Mass. - The Regional Environmental Council welcomes students in Worcester's Head Start program to their YouthGROW Farms for field tips. This year, they're set to welcome more kids than ever before.

What You Need To Know

  • The Regional Environmental Council nonprofit organization advocates for food justice in Worcester and Central Massachusetts

  • Youth Growing Organics in Worcester, or YouthGROW, is an urban agriculture-focused youth development and employment program for Worcester teens

  • YouthGROW employs up to 40 high school teens year-round who maintain three urban organic farms and hosts field trips for local schools

Every day this week, dozens of preschoolers stopped by the Main South YouthGROW Farm to learn about gardening and engage in some fun food activities like picking spinach and making smoothies.

The program hires 40 teens in the summer who work at two other sites in the city. REC's other core programs include Farmers Markets and their network of Community and School Gardens which supports over 70 gardens across the city.

School Gardens Coordinator, Eliza Lawrence said welcoming the Head Start students always makes for a great day.

"This is a really special place. I actually started working with YouthGrow and now I do School Gardens. It's a really special place," Lawrence said. "During the summer, it's really lively; again, there's like 40 teenagers here harvesting produce, doing discussions, team projects around the city, and this is sort of the hub of it all. So, it's small, but it holds a lot of a lot of things. It's really awesome, I think, for students to see that even in the middle of the city, the heart of the city, you can have a space like this, whether it be, you know, your backyard or a little side yard, you can do a lot with a little space. And I think it's really cool when they discover they live right next door and they've never seen it."

The United Way of Central Massachusetts funds the program for early childhood.

This year, Lawrence said REC is excited to open the YouthGROW Farms to the larger Worcester community; they'll have about 8 school visit between May and June.