Growing Gardens is a farm in Boulder, Colorado, right around the corner from photographer Julia Vandenoever. Julia rode her bike past the farm constantly and one day, decided to investigate and see what the farm was all about, and why there always seemed to be kids in the shrubs. Julia learned that Growing Gardens is home to Cultiva, a youth farm project that offers kids a chance to learn about agriculture. Julia decided to document the project, and to cover the youth farm for a full growing season—from plangin in the spring through to the fall harvest.
Cultiva teaches kids age 12 through 19 to plant, harvest and sell organic produce. They also donate some of the food to people in need. Julia discovered that the program is especially great at drawing kids from different backgrounds—different high schools, social groups and interests.
Photographing Cultiva at Growing Gardens made perfect sense for Julia as a photography project. It would combine her three favorite subjects: kids, food, and the outdoors. She met with Cultiva to talk about the project, and from there, she spoke to them weekly to coordinate which days that week would be best for her to come in and photograph. Julia says they sometimes had special events, like cooking classes or trips to the local farmers market, and she was always happy to join them for events like this.
Julia found that the kids she was photographing were doing amazing things. She remembers how difficult of a time those transitional teenage years can be and is hugely impressed with the work and the attitude of the kids at the farm. Not only were they learning to support a community and themselves through sustainable agriculture, but they were doing so with an energy and appreciation for the world around them.
These kids were amazing, thoughtful citizens in their community. Their awareness and consideration to people around them as well as their knowledge of how to grow and cook their own food was inspiring. They inspired me as a photographer, a human, and a parent.”
For Julia, the biggest challenge of the project was reserving time each week to make it to the farm. She wanted to photograph steadily throughout the growing season, so even if it was just getting there for an hour in the early morning, she made time.
Julia has created a print portfolio of her images from the farm, and she has even shared images with Growing Gardens that they’ve been able to use to promote their program. Her images can be seen all across the Growing Gardens website.
To view more of Julia’s work, visit juliavandenoever.com.