ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — At St. Pete Youth Farm, there’s a lot more that’s being cultivated there than just plants. Kids, many of them underprivileged, are being “grown” into adults there.

What You Need To Know

  • St. Pete Youth Farm helps kids, many of them underprivileged, to be “grown” into adults

  • Former student Darion Newkirk went from a student at the St. Pete Youth Farm to a paid instructor

  • Donate to St. Pete Youth Farm

Darion Newkirk says he was a different person when he first started in the program three years ago. 

“I wasn’t, like, talking to anybody,” he said. “And I was just doing my own thing. I was actually just resting. I was actually thinking about leaving the program.”

But Youth Farm organizer Carla Bristol kept sowing the seeds of encouragement. 

“The work we’re doing is important, and you’re doing it,” she said. “We have to make sure that the youth are at the center of everything. That it’s a youth-informed workplace.”

That has been the turning point for Newkirk and so many others there.

“From one okra, you can grow like 15, 20, 30, 50, 100 different okra plants,” Newkirk said. “So from one, you can make it for your entire family.”

And that’s not all.

“I learned how to finance money,” he said. “So it’s a lot more than just farming. Right now, I’m saving up for a car.”

These are skills Newkirk has taken home with him to prove his surroundings and make a better life for himself and his family. His grandmother, Pat Payne, calls the youth farm a godsend.

“He’s come so far,” said Payne. “So my heart, every time I think of the accomplishments from where he’s been in the past to now, is definitely God’s work. God has definitely worked through the farm.”

“No matter where they go in the world, they will be able to feed a community,” Bristol added. “And that’s the most valuable thing ever.”

So valuable, Newkirk is now a paid instructor at the youth farm, working to help others like him grow a better life.

“It’s grown me as a person for sure,” he said. “Like right now, I probably would be doing this if I didn’t stay here. I’d probably be at home or hanging out with friends or at some job and probably not liking it as much. So it’s taught me a lot.”