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community health fund


John Muir Land Trust’s Family Harvest Farm Initiative

JMH land trust's family harvst farm

Sadly, many foster youth experience severe trauma, neglect, physical and sexual abuse, parental substance abuse, and mental illness. Studies show that when these youth transition into adulthood, they are at heightened risk for a variety of mental and physical health threats, both because of their prior experience and because many are negatively affected by the social determinants of health. Under- or unemployment is one such social determinant, attributable to a variety of factors, including a lack of transportation, the need for childcare and food, and the absence of soft skills needed for employment. Among foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21, 70 percent are unemployed.

To provide foster youth transitioning to adulthood with foundational job skills that can help them avoid these common threats, the John Muir Land Trust (JMLT), First Place for Youth, Uplift Family Services, Youth Homes, and Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program created the Family Harvest Farm Initiative. This 6-12 month training program will ultimately serve 15-25 transitional age youth annually on 3.5 acres of a 17-acre site in Pittsburg that JMLT acquired as part of a ten-year lease agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric. Through the training experience, the youths receive wrap-around social services, gain access to fresh food, learn and practice transferrable employment skills necessary for meeting employer expectations in all types of entry-level jobs, and receive guidance about continuing education opportunities.

After JMLT secured approximately $500,000 in funding to prepare the site, the CHF approved a $62,500 Executive Director discretionary grant for the partners to work with Emerald International HPC to conduct a needs assessment and develop a multiyear business plan for this initiative. Having achieved that initial goal, the CHF then granted the collaborating partners $240,000 to implement the plan from March 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021.

The plan involved a two-tier apprenticeship program:

  • In 2020, Apprentice I employees received 6-12 months of paid training, where they learned a variety of farming and gardening tasks.
  • In 2021, those that successfully completed their Apprentice I training could become Apprentice II employees, which includes a pay increase as well as the responsibilities of helping to ensure farm efficiency and productivity, and serving as mentors to the next group of Apprentice I youth.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, through June 2021, the partners:

  • Hired a farm manager, production manager, program administrator and multiple volunteers.
  • Identified, recruited and hired 13 Phase I Apprentices, who are all on track to graduate. Each is working with a case manager from the referring core collaborating partner organization to develop individual transition plans.
  • Participated in quarterly core collaborating team meetings
  • Contracted with Harder+Company Community Research to assist the identification and development of tools for data collection and evaluation of the initiative
  • Developed a marketing plan that includes soliciting corporate donors, private foundations and individual donors.

An updated plan for implementing Phase II of the initiative had the following achievements:

  • Provided apprentices with:

o   Weekly workshops, conducted by community partner organizations, focused on farm & life skills; socio-emotional learning; employment & education pathways, financial literacy etc.

o   Quarterly one-on-one coaching sessions focusing on personal & work-related goals

o   Access to fresh organic food during the program and to take home

o   Support for successful transition to next work opportunity or education

  • Developed a Youth Advisory Committee
  • Hired a Farm Manager Assistant
  • Developed and launched a trauma-informed care/diversity, equity and inclusion training program for staff and volunteers
  • Employed 22 apprentices, with14 participating for three more months, and five graduating
  • 100% of apprentices reported:

o   Gaining confidence in their ability to establish and maintain positive relationships

o   Completing a transition plan

o   Overall happiness with the FHF experience and would recommend the program to a friend

  • Family Harvest Farm also provided free produce to over 1,900 individuals.
  •  JMLT hosted 40 community events including community workshops, volunteer orientations, school-based workshops, and donor events.

For 2023, the CHF awarded JMLT $50,000 to implement Phase III of the initiative, aimed at employing 15 apprentices. In addition to the ongoing services and programs noted above, key activities and expected outcomes include:

  • Engaging apprentices to help recruit new apprentices for the program.
  • Hosting a community engagement event with apprentice graduates
  • Collaborating with core partners to assess additional resources for apprentices
  • Growing and distributing organic produce for foster youth, family members, and the local community
  • Hosting workshops on regenerative and/or organic farming, cooking and crafts to local foster youth and community
  • Developing more local volunteers

As this is the final year of CHF support, the Phase III plan indicates that JMLT has garnered corporate, government, private foundation support, and established an individual donor base to support and sustain the Farm. The plan also indicates that revenue from government sources may ultimately become their largest revenue stream.