BUFFALO, N.Y. — When you think of farming, Buffalo's West Side probably doesn't come to mind, but there are more than a dozen pieces of property where a longtime organization has been growing produce — and helping teens grow their life and job skills.
The Massachusetts Avenue Project (M.A.P.) is an urban farm and youth leadership and employment agency that has been around for more than 20 years.
"There was an abundance of vacant land. There were a number of teens without jobs, and grocery stores were closing down so community members combined those things together, started farming on this land and hiring youth to do it and selling the produce back to the community," said development director Erin Carmina.
M.A.P.'s "Youth Going Green" program employs teens in the summer and after school and on weekends during the school year. About 35 teens earn a paycheck during the six-week program. They are divided into three different groups and rotate every week so they can learn about farming, cooking, and social justice.
There's a big focus on public speaking. For example, when the teens prepare a huge lunch for 60 people every week, they have to talk about the foods they chose to cook and why. Carmina said the teens are pushed out of their comfort zones when it comes to talking in front of a large crowd or even trying new foods. The goal is to help the teens become more well-rounded individuals.
"Now I know how to get involved in my community. I do social justice and environmental work that I wouldn't have known if I wasn't working at MAP," said Ingabire Adam. She's worked at M.A.P. for the past four years.
M.A.P. has a brand new farmhouse. It took two years two build, and money was raised through a $2.4 million capital campaign. State funding and community donations made it all possible. There's commercial kitchen space and meeting space that can be rented out.
M.A.P. farms 13 pieces of property, including nine that make up the main plot next to the farmhouse. The teens help to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers. They sell the goods at 14 different mobile market sites.
On Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. there is a market right across from the farmhouse, which is located at 387 Massachusetts Avenue in Buffalo. They sell produce and eggs, which come from chickens on the property. The market runs through the end of October.