Seeds of Change
At-risk teens flourish at a one-of-a-kind organic farm located in the heart of the Valley.
Written byHeather David
It’s a blazing 90º in Reseda, but some determined teenagers are spending their Saturday digging up soil, planting crops and tending to rescued animals. Pedro, an adorable alpaca with a pronounced underbite, seems to be basking in the attention. The teens also seem to be enjoying the experience, which is part of the Kindred Spirits Care Farm—a unique nonprofit born in Western Europe that is just gaining traction here in the U.S.
The idea behind the concept is to give vulnerable and underprivileged teens meaningful tasks while interacting with farm animals. At first glance the experience may sound relatively simple, but it seems to have a long-lasting healing effect on the kids.
Kindred Spirits Care Farm founder and executive director, Karen Snook, got the idea to open the nonprofit here in the Valley a couple of years ago but lacked a location. She got lost in the west Valley while driving one day and stumbled upon what she thought might a perfect solution.
“It was piece of land, at school, with some goats and chickens. And I thought, ‘What a crazy, weird place.’ When I was looking to start my own care farm, I went back and there was a big sign that read, ‘Please Help Save Our Farm.’ I thought, ‘How perfect. We can help each other,’” Karen recalls.
In 2012 the outdoor sanctuary came to life on the campus of a public continuation (LA Unified) high school in Reseda. Typically it is a last resort before students drop out altogether. “For the first time in my life I’m actually motivated to come to school,” shares 16-year-old sophomore Raeleen Torres.
The 100 or so kids who attend have many of their classes, like environmental studies, outside among the roaming goats and thriving vegetable garden. Nearly half of the student body participates in a Farm Club where they tend the garden.
And the goodwill appears to be spreading. Chef Phillip Frankland Lee of The Gadarene Swine (vegan) restaurant in Studio City buys produce from the student-run club.
“The program basically teaches the kids that fast food isn’t the best thing for them, and I like supporting their garden,” explains the chef.
And now Chef Phillip is getting even more hands-on. Recently he and the students created a veggie garden on the grounds of his restaurant, which the students will help maintain.
To find out more about Kindred Spirits, visit kindredspiritscarefarm.org
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