River City Youth Ops Teaches Spokane Teens to Grow Produce and Their Horizons

River City Youth Ops began with a mission, to create opportunities for youth to grow and enrich their community. Their summer program teaches adolescents what it takes to get food onto a plate from seed to sale. RCYO students use a small plot of land at the Abbey in West Central as the site of their urban farm. The summer begins as they tend the soil before planting seeds. Over the season, students learn to care for the crops, how to compost, harvest, and even cook the food they grow. The group even goes on to sell the produce they grow. RCYO has sold at the Kendall Yards Night Market in the past, but this season they participated in the Emerson-Garfield Farmers Market and the reestablished West Central Farmers Market.

But growth doesn’t stop there. RCYO’s after-school program provides job training, resumé building, and aids students in finding careers to match their passions and strengths.

“It is incredibly rewarding to inspire curiosity, to watch them grow, and help students find their worth,” says Stephanie Watson, RCYO’s Curriculum Coordinator.

Students stay closely tied with their community, whether they’re sharing lunchtime with their elders at Our Place, cleaning up riverbanks with Spokane Riverkeeper, working alongside Youth Build Spokane, or being mentored by folks from Whitworth’s Dornsife work study program.     

The RCYO summer and after-school program are available at no cost to students or their families thanks to contributions from individuals and corporate donors. RCYO is always looking to expand their capabilities in serving the students enrolled in the programs and the community as a whole. RCYO plans to host a Harvest Dinner on September 25 featuring produce grown by the participants. For more information, visit youthops.org.

Written by by Jamie Aquino

This story first appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Edible Inland Northwest.