Transformative youth program continues to thrive during pandemic

Transformative youth program continues to thrive during pandemic

July 30, 2020

Posted in: News Articles

Transformative youth program continues to thrive during pandemic

Through our Public Outings and Youth Education program, we help support Sonoma Ecology Center’s EnviroLeaders program that provides Sonoma Valley teens with the opportunity to gain essential job and life skills through practical, environmentally-focused training. The semester-long, paid work experience focuses on sustainable agriculture, community building, and park stewardship.

Through our partnership, Ag + Open Space was able to support Sonoma Ecology Center in hiring two cohorts of youth this summer to provide a positive, supportive outlet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As one of the few providers of summer jobs for local youth, a record number of applications was received. The twelve youth that were hired were divided into two crews, working alternative days at Sonoma Garden Park to ensure the health and safety of all.

Thus far, the teams have built compost stalls across several local drop off sites to provide locations for Sonoma Valley residents to bring green waste such as food scraps, arbor trimmings and local horse manure.

Youth Enviroleaders building a compost stall at Sonoma Garden Park.

Youth Enviroleaders building a compost stall at Sonoma Garden Park.

The teams also built a compost station at Sonoma Garden Park (pictured above in progress) using redwood collected from fallen trees that burned in wildfires over the last few years. The stalls each account for a different part of the compost layers: green nitrogen-rich leafy, wet material; brown crunchy carbon-rich material; and black for manure brought in from local horse ranches.  The compost is intended to help the garden produce all its soil on-site instead of remaining reliant on offsite sources.

The teams also help manage invasive species on Ag + Open Space-protected properties. During a recent trip to the Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve, they combed over the site of a prescribed fire burn that was conducted by SEC staff and partners earlier in the spring. The two crews cleared out new growth of yellow star thistle from the area, helping to allow native plants to repopulate the meadow and encourage a vigorous blooming season next spring!

While our normal Ag + Open Space and Sonoma Ecology Center led public outings are paused during the pandemic, our partners are continually finding creative ways to safely connect all of us with Sonoma County’s natural and working lands. Currently, the EnviroLeaders are working with a graphic designer to develop a brochure for self-guided tours of Sonoma Garden Park. The brochure is slated to be completed by the end of this month, and will soon be available for free in print form at the Sonoma Garden Park, or downloadable at SonomaGardenPark.org.