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Halifax gardening program nurtures at-risk youth

The kids are in charge of growing and harvesting produce, which range from peppers to strawberries to sage.
The kids are in charge of growing and harvesting produce, which range from peppers to strawberries to sage. Julia Wong/Global News

HALIFAX – A Halifax community garden is celebrating another season of growth this year.

Hope Blooms kick-offs their sixth year Thursday afternoon in the garden at 2346 Brunswick Street.

The community garden program aims to bring in at-risk youth.

The kids are in charge of growing and harvesting produce, which range from peppers to strawberries to sage.

Peppers are beginning to sprout in the Hope Blooms garden.
Peppers are beginning to sprout in the Hope Blooms garden. Global News File
Many herbs, including sage, are being grown in the garden.
Many herbs, including sage, are being grown in the garden.
A lone strawberry pokes out from the garden.
A lone strawberry pokes out from the garden.
Lots of basil is also being grown in the garden plots.
Lots of basil is also being grown in the garden plots.

“I learned how to plant, how deep to plant, what was the proper amount of water, when to water and what times I should plant during the year,” said Tiffany Calvin.

The kids also become business savvy while overseeing community programs that use the food, such as making soup for seniors and baby food for mothers.

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“I learned how to manage money, how to sell, how to get kids into groups and make sure they are ready to go,” participant Calvin Cain said.

But for the organizers, like founder Jessie Jollymore, nurturing the plants comes second to nurturing the children.

“I see the youth in the community here as being so bright and creative and sometimes on the outside of that there is so much marginalization and people being seen as poor,” Jollymore said. “But just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you’re not brilliant or creative.”

This is the sixth year for the Hope Blooms garden.
This is the sixth year for the Hope Blooms garden. Julia Wong/Global News

“The youth are basically bringing home the food to their families,” said program coordinator Serina Piercy. “They are feeding their families with the food they’ve grown.”

Cain agrees that the program has helped him grow.

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“I would say that they helped me stay focused more, stick to my work, don’t goof off and just work hard,” he said.

Hope Blooms’ sixth year will be marked by the kids’ appearance this fall on CBC’s Dragon’s Den.

Several kids flew to Toronto, some taking their first trip on the an airplane, to make the pitch to the Dragons.

“I was nervous and excited at the same time,” Cain said.

“It was scary at first just standing there, but once I started to talk, it got easier as it got along,” Calvin said.

While the kids can’t reveal what happened on the show just yet, whatever the outcome, organizers believe the kids have what it takes to succeed.

“I see the youth in the community here as having so much richness and potential and I just wanted to foster an environment where all that could come to light,” Jollymore said.

The program started with only nine kids but has since grown to include 50. Funding comes from the government, local businesses and community members.

The kick-off runs from 4 pm to 5:30 pm. The event includes a showcase of the food grown in the garden, a spotlight on the kids involved and a talent show.

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