A national leadership conference helping young people promote local agriculture in their communities has inspired a Missoula teenager.
Los Angeles hosted the "Rooted in Community Coalition."
Jesse Linton's story is one of an at-risk kid, who turned his life around when he got his hands dirty. Linton is a youth harvest intern at Garden City Harvest, working at the PEAS Farm in Missoula. The program helps at-risk youth.
His work there led to the national conference in L.A., where he learned about designing urban gardens.
"I want to get local organic food into people's communities," said Linton, "into their homes, into their stomachs."
The L.A. trip only confirmed the commitment Linton has already made.
As a Garden City Harvest youth intern, he's been growing organic fruits and vegetables and distributing them to low income seniors for a year and a half.
"I can see the bundle of carrots that I harvest this morning going into somebody's home and they look happy about it," said Linton. "They're telling me what they're going to make for dinner."
It's a happier and more productive road than the one before his life as a farmer.
Linton said he had substance abuse problems, had been to youth court, and was estranged from his family.
"And then that all changed," said Linton. "I haven't dealt with youth court. I'm living with my mom again and I have a relationship with all my family."
The youth harvest project's director said she's seen Jesse grow from a shy, quiet kid to a confident, well spoken young man, a leader.
"I'm so proud of him" said Laurie Strand Bridgeman. "My heart blooms."
Bridgeman said the responsibility of caring for a crop or livestock helps kids grow up.
"There's something really powerful about starting a tiny, little seed from a greenhouse and then planting it in the earth."
Late Monday morning, Linton and other workers at PEAS Farm were gathering recently dug potatoes to take to the Mobile Market. It's a market that offers senior citizens a reduced cost for vegetables.
Jesse would also like to raise cattle. He'd like to see local beef in Missoula schools. The Willard Alternative High School senior plans to go to college. The 17-year-old wants a life in agriculture.
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