Shel Horowitz – “The Transformpreneur”(sm)

Urban Gardening For Teens

What if a single action could: get troubled teens off the streets and into something productive—and develop their entrepreneurship skills in the process…provide fresh local organic food to inner-city people with no other access to quality produce…clean up a blighted neighborhood vacant lot and spark a caring community spirit? What if that action could be done without any significant government or corporate resources, other than a space to have it? Sound like a lot to do at once? Oddly enough, it’s probably easier to create a single action that accomplishes multiple goods than to create a program that requires massive intravenous injections of outside aid to address only one of those goals. (And this is a sustainability principle that’s true in many areas: energy, transportation, manufacturing, and more.)

Urban Community Gardens and Projects

This particular set of objectives can all be met by creating urban community gardens, and any business owner can benefit by facilitating their creation. Your own (or your neighborhood’s) property values go up, risk of crime and vandalism goes down, and you add to your standing in your home community.

All you need to do is find some neighborhood leaders who’ll get the project going, and provide or locate a quarter-acre or so of unused land (ideally, a parcel that can be expanded as the project succeeds)—or even an appropriately engineered rooftop. Check out this article to see a wonderful example of urban rooftop gardening!

Urban Gardening Projects

Successful urban garden projects are happening all over the country. There are great examples of youth getting involved. Cities that were hard hit by a recession have also had success. Here are some great examples.

Examples of Urban Gardening Projects for Youth

25 kids, ages 9-17, run the Brightmoor Youth Garden on Detroit’s west side, start to finish. In one year, they planted, maintained, harvested and sold 1,300 pounds—$2,700 worth of—produce. And this is only one of numerous local food projects in Detroit. (Note: the figure of 25 comes from a different article, since taken down.)

In Richmond, California (near San Francisco), a community group called Urban Tilth has two farms based at schools and is planning to hire 26 kids to plant and manage an orchard. One of these farms involves 30 students in a class called “Urban Ecology and Food Systems,” whose curriculum integrates lessons from the garden into the classroom.

Examples of Urban Gardening Projects for Hard Hit Communities

Cleveland, hit hard by the recession, has 3,300 acres of vacant land and 15,000 vacant buildings within city limits. Rather than blast big swaths through the neighborhoods in the traditional urban renewal “solutions,” the city is reclaiming 15 parcels in a pilot project to grow its own food—adding to the 175 community gardens and 40 for-profit market gardens already in existence. Bobbi Reichtell, senior vice president for programs of Neighborhood Progress Inc. (the group coordinating the effort) has an ambitious goal returning $800 million a year to the local economy by raising the percentage of locally grown food in Cleveland from 2 percent to 10 percent.

Nuestra Raices, a longstanding community group in depressed Holyoke, Massachusetts, has started an urban farm and several spin-off businesses. As its farmers gain skills in the business world, the organization helps them start mini-farms of their own, and new farmers take their place on the original land. Interestingly enough, Nuestras Raices itself was founded by a group of community gardeners.

In Portland, Oregon, more than 5000 residents work the city’s community gardens totalling 383,000 square feet.

On the rooftops of the neighborhood once written off as “Fort Apache,” Sustainable South Bronx is growing food, extending the lives of the buildings, and slashing energy use.

Creating an Urban Gardening Business

If this multiplicity of benefits could make a huge difference in your community, consider helping one get started. Maybe your corporate headquarters has a sunny section of lawn that could become garden space (and perhaps reduce the health risks to your employees from pesticide use)—or your retail location has an unused roof—or you know your city has taken a nearby vacant lot for unpaid back taxes. Do you happen to have a skilled gardener on staff who’d like to volunteer a few hours to train neighborhood kids and get the project going? Can such an initiative tie in to zero-waste, buy-local or other green projects you’re already doing?

And can you benefit by branding your firm in your community as an advocate for jobs, entrepreneurship, healthy fresh food, and re-skilling our youth?

About the Author

Green and regenerative business profitability and marketing strategist and copywriter Shel Horowitz’s mission is to fix crises like catastrophic climate change, pollution, hunger, poverty, racism/othering, and even war—by showing the business world how products and services that fix them can make a profit. An author, international speaker, and TEDx Talker, he will be contributing content to Green Business Bureau regularly. Shel’s award-winning 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, lays out a blueprint for creating, repurposing, and MARKETING those profitable change-making products and services. 

If you’re a Green Business Bureau member, Shel offers you a 10% discount on your first project with him, from $19.50 savings on a one-hour small-business consultation up to a maximum discount of $500 for projects of $5000 or more. He will also expand his standard 15-minute free initial consultation to a full 30 minutes for GBB members. He is happy to help you:

Develop or refine your overall positioning, marketing and profitability strategy, and target markets
Identify new markets for existing products and services as well as new products and services you can market to your existing base
Create individually tailored product-specific or overall marketing plans that harness your strengths and avoid your weaknesses
Write marketing materials such as “story-behind-the-story” press releases, web page copy, sales letters, media pitch letters, partnership or JM (joint venture) proposals, articles, LinkedIn profiles, social media posts, even entire books
Book your no-cost initial consultation at (either call or use the scheduling link). Download excerpts from the book or order your very own copy (autographs available) at . Access 11 different freebies including a green/regenerative self-assessment and Shel’s Painless Green ebook of 111 tips to reduce your water and energy use at 

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