It grows veggies
– and character.

Yes, the kids are learning how to slice and dice, why a nicely set table is important, and the difference homegrown produce can make to health and well-being.

But Teen Leadership Corps, an unusual summer programme at Awbury Arboretum in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighbourhood, is about much more: good work habits, interpersonal and leadership skills, possible job opportunities, and “green” enterprises, such as a farmer’s market or herbal-products business.

“It’s about meaningful work and growing leaders,” says Anna Herman, one of its founders.

For four weeks this summer, 28 city kids, ages 14 to 20, are planting, harvesting, preparing, and eating the freshest food imaginable, not from their own backyards, but from 10 raised beds, a small “farm” in the arboretum’s 6.5ha Agricultural Village, and other assorted gardens.

They include those cultivated by the formidable Herman, 53, of Mount Airy, a longtime proponent of healthy cooking and eating and “green” entrepreneurship. She’s also an expert on all things culinary, from the origins of Parmesan cheese to the uses of kohlrabi. Of course, the kids joke that it’s “Parma Jean,” pronounced the French way, and wonder why on earth Monsieur Jean would make French cheese in Italy.

Imani Murray learning how to chop vegetables from Anna Herman, one of the co-founders and directors of Teen Leadership Corps.