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Sprouting Young Gardeners

Botanic Garden is partnering with Mandy’s Farm to give youth vocational experience.

April 3, 2019 - The ABQ BioPark is now a training ground for young people preparing for the workforce.

Through a partnership with Mandy’s Farm and AmeriCorps, interns 14 years and up can work two hours per week for two months in the Botanic Garden to learn skills related to horticulture.

BioPark gardener Sarah Jane Gendron helps lead the program on the BioPark end. She teaches interns about the day-to-day tasks involved in working at a public garden such as cleaning up branches, using protective gear while working, planting and potting flowers, raking gently in order to preserve mulch and utilizing proper watering techniques. Most of the work is done in the Children’s Fantasy Garden, where participants get experience with both flower and vegetable care.

“I really want them to feel confident that they can go out there and get a job,” Gendron says, adding that by the end of an internship, participants should be able to successfully work at a nursery or garden center, if they choose. She says she also tries to impart basic job skills like safety and work ethic.

The project is part of the Vamos Program administered through Mandy’s Farm. The program gives individuals with developmental disabilities the chance to participate in life-skills based courses, job fairs, jobsite tours, benefits counseling, mentoring with employed peers, and customized internships like those at the BioPark. According to the organization’s website, this helps them navigate the transition to adult life. The BioPark has been part of the program for about a year, hosting five interns in that time.

Gendron says the program fits nicely with the ABQ BioPark’s role as a community-based organization and she hopes that the information she shares with interns is passed to their families and spread further in the community.

She adds that one of the young women who went through the program has already come “full circle” and is now a job coach for Mandy’s Farm, which she says “just fills my heart.”