Helping local businesses AND teaching youth about running a small business? That’s what the Ignite Youth Centre in St. Thomas is doing with the Cultivate Virtual Farmer’s Market.
Pre-COVID-19, the Ignite Youth Centre (formerly the Talbot Teen Centre) had a plan for creating a farm-to-table program that included gardening, planning, planting, harvesting, cooking, and creating items to sell at a farmer’s market. Unfortunately, the centre was forced to close mid-March, and had to re-evaluate their programming ideas.
Program manager Vicki Asher, thought it made sense to shift gears, and come up with a new way to bring youth back into the building. She tapped into her history with farmer’s markets and friendships with local farmers, and connected with many local vendors who were very supportive of the youth initiative.
Today, the Cultivate Virtual Farmer’s Market is an online, one stop, mid-week shopping solution offering an amazing selection of fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruits, cheese, fresh meats, honey, preserves, fish, breads, baked goods, prepared foods and more from St. Thomas and area farmers, growers and artisans.
Cultivate runs on the power of 18 youth volunteers, all of who applied to be a part of the market, were interviewed and received feedback from the Ignite Youth Centre staff. The youth volunteers have the opportunity to learn anything and everything associated with running a small business and each youth can decide how much they want to be involved. Asher notes that there’s a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, and some kids are more interested in the planning, some doing receiving and merchandising, and some meeting vendors and sorting orders.
Two “natural team leaders,” Seth and Darien, have been volunteering since the beginning and know everything that needs to be done, and can direct other volunteers.