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WSU students drive partnership with Grow Ogden community farm

By Ryan Aston - | Feb 12, 2024
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Jasmyne Litanski, a student in Weber State University's Master of Social Work program, played a key role in launching the school's partnership with the Grow Ogden community farm.
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Eden Streets and Grow Ogden founder Karl Ebeling poses with student volunteers at Weber State University.

OGDEN — Students at Weber State University are playing a significant role in the development and management of Grow Ogden, a community farm located near the First Presbyterian Church of Ogden at 880 E. 28th St.

The plot serves as the pilot farm for the nonprofit Eden Streets, which seeks to serve vulnerable populations — including those facing homelessness — by providing food and a path toward permanent employment and housing.

Individuals facing homelessness are transitionally employed at the farm for 16 weeks through Eden Streets’ job training program with the aim of reintroducing them to the workforce.

“Ogden has one of the highest homelessness rates in the state,” Ashlee Johnston, a WSU student working on the project, told the Standard-Examiner. “So, I think that it’s really cool that they brought it here and that we’re going to try to help some people out and help them get back on their feet, back into the community and contributing to both their lives and to others’.”

The program is highly individualized for those who are hired; each person works with an advocate who meets with them regularly and provides guidance and support in addition to ensuring that their physical and mental needs are met.

Meanwhile, the farm’s produce is donated to the Catholic Community Services food pantry.

WSU students helped expand Grow Ogden by designing its case management program, a collaboration that began by pure chance.

Jasmyne Litanski, a recent graduate of WSU’s social work program, happened upon a Grow Ogden flier at a local coffee shop. She went on to join the effort, helping to recruit fellow students under the guidance of Barrett Bonella, associate professor of social work.

“They didn’t have a farm at that time, so we just volunteered so we could get the whole program on its feet,” Litanski told the Standard-Examiner.

Since then, a WSU student team has helped with grant writing, program development and refining the intake process.

“I think one of the biggest things I’ve enjoyed about the program is being able to see a nonprofit go from ground zero to where it’s at now,” Litanski said. “And then I think also seeing a lot of people in the community gravitate over to what’s happening. It’s nice to see different types of people with different skill sets or interests (and) reasons for being there help build up a nonprofit.”

In an email to the Standard-Examiner, Karl Ebeling — Eden Streets’ executive director — said the partnership with WSU has “accelerated the progress” at Grow Ogden. Ebeling also noted that the university’s involvement wouldn’t be limited to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences moving forward.

“Faculty and students from other WSU colleges will also help accelerate this work of relaunching lives through farming,” Ebeling wrote.

Ebeling further revealed that Grow Ogden has entered into a partnership with Ogden-Weber Technical College as well. The school has agreed to provide farm trainee graduates with the option of enrolling in one of 20 technical training programs with a job at a local business waiting for successful graduates.

Aside from student involvement and those employed through the job training program, Grow Ogden depends on volunteer work to run the farm. Currently, final preparations are being made for the growing season, beginning in March.

Those interested in volunteering can visit https://www.edenstreets.org for more information.


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