Youth Now Farm grows job skills along with vegetables

On a quiet farm at the edge of Ottawa, vegetables and livestock aren’t the only things growing — the farm is also helping at-risk young people blossom.

Farm in Ottawa's Greenbelt is helping raise crops and careers

Elvis Gakwaya helps harvest tomatoes at the farm. He's considering a career in agriculture after his experience at the farm this summer. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

On a quiet farm at the edge of Ottawa, vegetables and livestock aren't the only things growing — the farm is also helping at-risk young people blossom.

Youth Now Farm sits on the Greenbelt, just north of Highway 417 near Anderson Road.

It works with young people who are looking to improve their skills, and gives them the experience they need to enter the workforce.

"We can help in what might have been their difficulties engaging with employment," the farm's manager, Jenny Roebuck, told Hallie Cotnam of CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

As an example, some of the youths are dealing with criminal records and homelessness.

Jenny Roebuck, the farm's manager, wrangles a few of the animals on the property. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Work on the farm can help young people better understand their past challenges in the workplace and find ways to overcome them, Roebuck said.

"It's giving youth the opportunity to discover themselves and discover where their own strengths are," she said.  

Even the animals on the farm help people learn how to interact with others. As an example, most of the farm's goats are friendly, but one in particular isn't as approachable.

"He takes a little bit longer to get to know, and that is worthwhile," she said.

'You don't want to finish'

Elvis Gakwaya has been working on the farm for most of the summer.

He was born in Rwanda, orphaned during the genocide in the 1990s, and has been in Canada for nine years.

Coming to the farm to work has been a wonderful experience, he said.

"I'm going to miss the farm and just being in this quiet," he said.

"I'm never going to forget this."

Workers at the farm help grow vegetables and other crops, as well as raise livestock, like this goat. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Gakwaya's time at the farm ends next month, but he said he hopes to return to agriculture in the future.

"I am going to keep doing research and keep learning more about farming and taking care of animals," he said. "It is something I am trying to do as a career."

Samantha Anglade is also working at the farm this summer, and said it's been rewarding.

Samantha Anglade said she doesn't want her time working at the farm to end. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"The object is to work together as a team and try to find solutions," she said.

She also didn't rule out a career as a farmer and said she's going to miss her time at the farm when it comes to an end.

"It is a little bit upsetting. You don't want to finish," Anglade said.

We visit a mixed farm on NCC land that's raising veggies free-range turkeys and the spirits of at-risk youth. 7:40

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning, with files from Hallie Cotnam