Northern Youth Project’s Open House & Teen Salsa Contest Saturday

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Photo shows NYP interns busy planting vegetable seedlings at their "Heritage Inspired Garden" in Abiquiu. Photo courtesy of Northern Youth Project

Northern Youth Project’s Heritage Inspired Garden: “From Seed To Table”

Garden Open House & Teen Salsa Contest Sat. Sept. 17 In Abiquiu

By ROBERT NARANJO

Abiquiu – In communities all over the country, regardless of the size, from a few thousand people to a million or more, the same thing is repeated in each: “There’s nothing for the younger people to do.” And, now with a variety of high-tech gadgets, cell phones, and computers available, the nation’s youth are stuck inside their homes amusing themselves with these twenty-first century “devices,” but missing out on other activities that could benefit them health wise, learning how to be a team player in a community project, or learning leadership skills that will come into play later in their chosen career  track.

Photo shows NYP interns, instructors, and soon to be NYP interns visiting Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos County on a field trip. Courtesy photo by Northern Youth Project

One person had a response to the often-repeated, “There’s nothing for younger people to do” statement. A woman, Leona Hillary, said, “Yes, there is!” That was the genesis for the Northern Youth Project (NYP), giving young people a choice in the greater Abiquiu area seven years ago.

NYP’s mission was directed towards the “local teens as a response to a lack of programming for youth in the community,” Salazar explained.

“NYP was started in 2009 by Leona Hillary,” Salazar told the Valley Daily Post . “Seven years ago, Abiquiu area youth, ages 12-18, planted a “…heritage inspired garden and have done so every year since then.” She said the youth planted a “garden to learn how things used to be done in their grandparents time, where a garden was vital to a family.” And, she added that “…three years ago, the NYP participants created a salsa contest to showcase the produce they grew,” not to mention their skill at making the popular salsa.

Photo shows NYP interns "...connecting to Mother Earth" while working on making small pottery pieces out of red clay. Courtesy Photo from the National Youth Project

And, connecting to “Mother Earth gives the students an appreciation for the world they live in and they learn to do their part to help protect it,”  Salazar explained.

Salazar continued by saying just how NYP does more than what meets the eye. “Agriculture has been an integral part of the culture in northern New Mexico for generations. It is how our family and community structures were organized–around our landscapes, and how we found our place in this world. By empowering local youth to grow their own food we are working to propagate a healthier community by reviving our connections with the Earth and with each other.”

Salazar added, “As interns, the youth work three hours a week to help maintain the garden from seed to table. They also assist in the cooking classes that are open to the community. As well as in the planning and facilitating events.”

Photo shows NYP interns (and a soon to be intern) making "masa" balls for rolling out "tortillas" in a cooking class. Courtesy photo by Northern Youth Project

The interns learn how to maintain a garden of traditional and diverse crops, as well as the nutritional value of the foods that we process and enjoy in our cooking classes, as snacks, and that we share with the community.

This program works to create resilience in our community by empowering the youth by connecting them to place through the garden, and by encouraging creativity and financial understanding by honoring their work with a stipend.”

Salazar then explained the value of NYP vis a vis a global perspective. “That being said, the garden has become a place where our youth have cultivated the land and are continuing the subsistence culture of our ancestors. We are working to help them learn positive ways of being in the world. How to work the land, and what it teaches them. How to plant a seed, watch it grow, care for it, and prepare a healthy meal for the community. And how to bring community together through it,” she concluded.

Photo shows an NYP intern irrigating the garden. "Watering" or irrigating a garden on a weekly schedule is a must as NM is arid, and rainfall is not sufficient to support vegetable and other plant growth, except desert plants that grow with very little water. Courtesy photo by Northern Youth Project

With produce from their NYP garden, the youth are having a “Salsa Contest” during an Open House for family, friends and neighbors to see their garden first-hand and taste some of their salsa made with vegetables they grew. Area farmers are helping out too by donating more produce to help with the Salsa Contest.

The Heritage Inspired Garden Open House and Salsa Contest will be held Sat., Sept 17, from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., behind the Rising Moon Gallery, in Abiquiu. Contact NYP at northernyouthproject.org or call (213) 718-2806 if you have any questions.