Youth in Sudbury area learning an important life skill

From pruning plants to creating the perfect compost, a group of youths in Hanmer are getting first-hand experience at all things agricultural.

“So far I’ve learned many things,” said 16-year-old Noah Lachance. “I’ve learned how to compost, how to prune tomato plants for an example, how to identify different kinds of weeds and pests of bugs and things like that.”

It’s part of a new Youth Agricultural Mentors program (YAM) that is helping teach life skills to the next generation.

“High school aged youth are really waking up to the problems with pollution and climate change and it can make you feel really anxious and sometimes hopeful,” said youth program co-lead Kryslyn Mohan.

“But when we have the skills to grow our own food and food for our community, we can help to develop a more resilient community.”

YAM is the first of its kind this year after the program received $56,900 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2019. However, Sudbury Shared Harvest has been helping connect the community and nature for much longer.

“I started working here at Sudbury Shared Harvest when I was 16 years old and I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future,” said Kaelyn Charron. “I think being a part of something like this can help inspire other kids and students that don’t know necessarily what they want to go into in the future.”

Charron said she was surprised to learn that a job like this could be a career.

"I never thought that something like this could be possible and it taught me how to work with the community and really love the food that I’m eating and be more mindful about what I’m eating,” she said.

Officials said the program is about much more than just gardening.

“Day-to-day programming looks like an energizer or a team builder in the morning and then we might do a little bit of a stretch or a breath together, just to get grounded for our day,” said Mohan.

It also includes monthly webinars with the Sudbury Public Library and field trips to local gardens and farms so young people get to experience a variety of agriculture practices.

“It’s really fun and you learn a lot of things from all of it and it’s really worth it,” said Lachance.

Four weeks into the new program, officials said they're optimistic it will return next year with a new crop of students to grow their skills.