Farm Programs Keep Children out of Gangs

A Woodlake, California garden has been credited with keeping local youth out of gangs and out of trouble. The 14 acre garden was started by Manuel Jimenez, who wanted to find a way to help the crime ravaged town of Woodlake. Out of Woodlake’s 7,280 people, over forty percent of its families live in poverty. This poverty has led to increased crime, particularly a serious gang problem.

According to Jimenez, “We want to grow kids in our gardens, because we’ve seen what violence, drugs and alcohol can do.”

The farm, which has hundreds of young volunteers from the community, teaches children important work habits and agricultural skills that can be translated to school and careers. Children plant flowers, fruit, and vegetables in vacant lots, exploiting local urban agriculture ordinances.

By working on the gardens, local residents say, children have less time to walk the streets and less time to get involved in criminal activity. In addition, the Jimenezes serve as surrogate parents, advising volunteers on career choices and encouraging them to pursue higher education. Local police have credited the community garden with the recent drop in crime in Woodlake.

In addition to benefiting local youth, the garden has become a community gathering place. Produce is left on trees for local residents to pick and the hundreds of plants and flowers serve as a major attraction for locals and residents in the surrounding area.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer