Creston Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., is helping neighborhood high school students develop job skills and learn about where food comes.
Shanna Greer harvests early cherry tomatoes on the New City Urban Farm.
The church is providing funding for New City Urban Farm, located on the property of another church.
Lance Kraai, farm director and a member of Creston CRC, sees the ministry as a social enterprise: a business whose goals include social benefits in addition to profits. The farm offers employment, job skills training, and discipleship to high school students.
One of those students is Shanna Greer, 17. “I wanted to be a part of something new,” she said. “I like coming back after the weekend to see that everything has grown so much!”
The farm is operated as community supported agriculture, in which shareholders pay up front for produce that they receive throughout the growing season. In its pilot year, the farm is offering ten full shares.
Employees develop job skills such as punctuality, communication, and customer service. They also participate in a discipleship program and receive one-on-one coaching to discuss their future plans.
“I learned that I do want to go to college,” said Greer of these coaching sessions, “At first I didn’t. And now I know about how to get there.”
“It’s fun to see people get excited about food,” said Kraai. “I’ve really seen God’s hand every step of the way: we sold out of shares early on, the food has been plentiful, the high school students are all very good, and we have six regular college volunteers helping out.”