Youth garden in a mobile-home park

Cimarron Community Farm grows more than 10,000 pounds of food annually on a ½ acre lot in Lake Elmo.

“We’re small but mighty,” said Elise Hanson, co-director of the farm. “Everyone deserves access to healthy, fresh produce – whether they can afford it or not.”

Next year, farm officials plan to expand that access through their free summer youth program. Growing Youth, Growing Food was this year’s Great Idea grantee from the Stillwater Area Community Foundation. This was the 10th year of the competition.

The group received an $8,500 grant to expand the program to children and youth living in Cimarron Park, a trailer park in Lake Elmo. Program organizers work with youth planting, watering, managing, harvesting and preparing meals from vegetables grown on the farm. About 40 children between the ages of 5 and 15 took part in the program in the summer.

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“While the residents’ experiences cannot be lumped together, it is important to note that many residents live in disadvantaged circumstances,” said Hanson, who serves as co-director with Madeline Esterl.

Fifteen percent of Cimarron residents live below the poverty line; The median household income is $45,326, Hanson said. “Many families can’t afford daycare in the summer, let alone quality, engaging youth programs,” she said. “We believe all children deserve a fun summer, so we want to continue to provide that and grow next year.”

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