Many of the young people working at the Brook Park Youth Farm have been touched by the criminal justice system in at some point in their lives. They could have been arrested for offenses ranging from theft to assault to armed robbery
Now, they plant and grow serrano peppers. More than 100 pepper plants have taken root in a corner of the garden known as the “youth farm.” The pepper’s primary caretakers are teenagers with criminal records who were sent to work in the garden through a court order as an alternative to incarceration.
These young people have quickly found themselves at home in Brook Park. “The garden is a sanctuary in the midst of a very hostile environment,” says program coordinator Raymond Figueroa. “It’s a place where they can let their guard down and experience the restorative power of nature.” “When we have them restoring community gardens, or harvesting vegetables to sell at the local farmers markets, they stop thinking of themselves as the problem, and start seeing themselves as part of the solution.”