St. Pete Youth Farm is teaching students about financial literacy and the basics of business

Elias Ross, 10th grade, shovels fertilizer at St. Pete Youth Farm, where he works. Nancy Guan | WUSF Public Media

BY NANCY GUAN | WUSF Public Media – WUSF 89.7

ST. PETERSBURG — On a hot summer day, the young people at St. Pete Youth farm can be found hard at work, tilling the fertilizer rows for crops.

The cohort of about 15 high school-aged students are paid part-time workers. But many of them say that their work at the farm goes beyond the elements of other part-time jobs.

As part of St. Pete Youth Farm’s programming, the young workers learn about the importance of food and nutrition access, mental health awareness and financial literacy. They participate in community events and interact with other volunteers who want to give their time to the community farm.

According to Collaboration Manager Carla Bristol, the holistic experience teaches kids how to become community-minded, responsible adults.

“It goes back to the old adage, ‘feed a man, he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.'” said Bristol.

The latest project the group is embarking on results from their lessons on financial literacy and business basics.

The students plan to create a YouTube Channel — St. Pete Youth Farm Live — that they hope will spread their knowledge about farming to a broader audience and eventually become a profitable business.

The endeavor embodies the enterprising values of this month. August marks Black Business Month, an annual tradition traced back to 2004 and was spearheaded by Black engineering entrepreneur Frederick E. Jordan and author and businessman John William Templeton.

St. Pete Youth Farm Live is the brainchild of high school sophomore Landrick Thomas and senior Jazz Smith.

High school senior Jazz Smith tends to the raised fertilizer boxes at St. Pete Youth Farm. Nancy Guan | WUSF Public Media

“We were doing some projects, and we really wanted a way to get them out more than just the website, so we decided we were going to do a video format,” said high school senior Jazz Smith.

Smith said they’re planning to build an audience first. Once St. Pete Youth Farm Live has a substantial following, that’s when local businesses or entrepreneurs will reach out to buy ad space on their channel’s videos or discuss sponsorship deals.

Students at the farm, including Smith himself, have invested several shares — at $25 per share — in the company.

“Whenever the channel does start making actual profits, then that money gets evenly distributed between people with shares. So more shares more profit. That’s the idea,” explained Smith.

Regardless of how much profit the channel makes, Smith and his peers say that their primary mission is to educate their community about the benefits of growing your own food and how they can do so.

“We’ll show people like the different parts of the farm like composting, planting, just showing people what we do here,” said Thomas.

Thomas, who has worked at the farm for almost a year, has learned how to grow a variety of vegetables in the field, including okra and peppers, how to compost and run the hydroponic system in the farm’s greenhouse, where they’re raising blue and red tilapia.

Once the vegetables are ripe and fish are abundant, the farm gives them out to their neighbors in the community.

It fulfills the main mission of the urban farm, which was founded in 2019 to fill a food and nutrition gap left by the shuttering of two grocery stores in the predominantly Black community years prior.

Kianna Chambers, who serves as St. Pete Youth Farm Live’s treasurer, said she wants more people to learn about the community garden and how to participate.

“What I’m expecting out of this project is for people to see what we’re doing here and for our brand to get out,” said Chambers.

Smith said once he graduates, he wants to become a teacher to pass on this knowledge to young students. For now, he hopes the community can learn from them in person and, eventually, through video.

“We’re all about giving back to our community. And that doesn’t have to be physical; it can be knowledge,” said Smith, “And if they can’t come by and learn how to do what we’re doing by experiencing it, then letting them watch it is the next best thing.”

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“St. Pete Youth Farm is teaching students about financial literacy and the basics of business” originally appeared on USF Public Media.

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