June 3, 2008

LEXINGTON, Ky., (May 28, 2008) – 4-H’ers are getting hands-on experience in entrepreneurship and gardening through 4-H GrowBiz, a program offered at the Fayette County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. In the program, youth are growing their own basil and dill and learning how to market these products to the public. The eight-week program, developed by Jennifer Hubbard, Fayette County 4H Youth development agent, and Jamie Dockery, Fayette County horticulture agent, is in its second year. Last year, Hubbard received an entrepreneurship grant and decided she wanted to do something different. She approached Dockery with the idea of teaching youth basic business and horticultural skills. They began the pilot program, growing oregano at an afterschool program at Johnson Elementary School. “We are trying to teach the youth how to do a business that they could actually do on their own,” Hubbard said. This year the program was extended beyond the school system to show how easily adaptable the program can be for other 4-H programs, community organizations and churches. Dockery and Hubbard have also developed a curriculum, which outlines the program and offers tips for fundraising, teaching exercises and gardening so interested volunteers and organizations can easily implement it. “Our society has become so disconnected from our food supply and agriculture in general. I’m just amazed how many kids have never gardened before or don’t know the basic principles,” Dockery said. “We want this to be a grassroots effort that kind of spreads.” 4-H’ers participating this year are home school youth. The group meets weekly at Good Foods Market and Café. Meetings are divided between learning about business basics at the market and working in their garden at the fire station on Southland Drive, which is only a block away from Good Foods. It is also within a block of the Lexington Farmers Market location on Southland Drive. “It’s absolutely perfect,” Dockery said. “The farmers market location and the fact that we have all these things, the garden, the meeting space and a market opportunity right here on the same block is just phenomenal.” GrowBiz has been totally community driven. Partners include Good Foods Market and Café, Southland Drive Fire Station, Southland Merchants Association, Southland Drive Community Association, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service, Lexington Farmers Market and local businesses and producers. “The whole Southland area has really kind of wrapped their arms around this project,” Hubbard said. “We have people coming in all the time and asking if this is 4-H GrowBiz. They’ve heard about it; so it’s pretty exciting.” In the program, youth work together, much like a board of directors, to make all of the business decisions. Not only are youth involved in the entire growing process, but they also do market research, develop a name for their business, create a business logo, decide the proper packaging and determine the sell price. They will also do an internship with a grower at the Lexington Farmers Market to reinforce the principles they learn during their meetings and in the garden. Once their product is harvested in late summer or early fall, they’ll sell it one Sunday at the Lexington Farmers Market location on Southland Drive. While no date has been set, Dockery said it will be publicized well in advance. Through the partnership with Good Foods, youth also will have the opportunity to sell their products in the store. Once all of their profits are in, youth will take their gross income and go back through their expenses, paying each. The group will divide any remaining profits among themselves, and decide how to spend their money. “We don’t do a whole lot of sheltering them from the real world,” Dockery said. “I mean this could be a complete bust, and they’ll learn that along side of us -- although, that would be a huge disappointment.” Last year’s product sold so well at the Lexington Farmers Market that they actually had to go back and make a second batch to fill all the orders. That group used their project profits to buy permanent raised gardening beds and a plaque commemorating the experience at the students’ elementary school. Youth received any left over money in the form of 4-H Bucks that they could use to offset any costs of involvement in additional 4-H programs, events and camps of their choosing. To learn more or to get a copy of the 4-H GrowBiz curriculum, contact Jennifer Hubbard or Jamie Dockery at 859-257-5582 or visit the Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service at 1140 Red Mile Place in Lexington. 4-H offers many gardening programs available for youth of all ages. For more information on gardening programs offered in your area, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service.

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