I don't think it's an exaggeration to say the teens behind Green Garden Bakery work harder than most adults I know.
They oversee a community garden, using the plants they grow there in an array of healthy (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free) desserts. They sell said desserts at farmers markets and pop-ups as a way to get people in their neighborhood to eat healthier.
And soon? The entirely youth-run bakery will open a commercial kitchen space all its own—complete with greenhouse and storefront—in North's Heritage Park neighborhood. They've secured some funding already, and hope to crowdfund another $25,000 for mobile bike carts, renovations to the kitchen, and more.
"This kitchen will be such an amazing opportunity for Green Garden Bakery to grow and build," says 16-year-old Arafat Ahmed, the bakery's catering and online orders chair. Ahmed says the group is all about benefiting the community, one the FDA has deemed a food desert, where healthy food isn't always easily accessible.
That's not the only way this organization supports its neighborhood, either. A third of profits is reinvested into the business and another third pays the staff; the last third goes to a community-based charity. And when the kitchen opens, they'll invite the community to use it as well.
They seriously thought of everything. Even the compostable packaging—no styrofoam here—is decorated by kids in the neighborhood, who use vegetable-based paints developed with plants from the garden.
And these kids are noticeably, deservedly proud that the people buying their baked goods realize just how much hard work goes into them.
"Our latest five-star review on our Facebook page—we have a 5 out 5 star rating by the way—stated, 'The baked goods are delicious, and most importantly, the people making them are rising stars in our community and deserve our support and respect,'" says entrepreneurship chair Maya Gray (16). "Every customer we meet can attest to our drive, and it’s impossible to forget the kids that make the green good."
"One customer said, 'You guys are so unstoppable, super mature, motivated, and wildly creative. You guys are more buttoned-up than most adults I know,'” adds 17-year-old CEO Leensa Ahmed. "As a young, black, Muslim woman, all the odds are against me. But I'm proving I'm a kickass boss."
In the crowdfunding description, Ahmed hones in on what makes their business so important and original. "Typically," she writes, "teens in north Minneapolis and youth of color in general have limited opportunities to be exposed to these types of entrepreneurship experiences." And many of Green Garden's young employees have seen more hardship than most. Take urban agriculture chair Jasmine Salter. The 17-year-old was hit by a car, her father was murdered, and her best friend passed away—all within the span of a year.
"I’ve been able to count on Green Garden Bakery as a support system and another family while mine was grieving," Salter says. "My coping mechanism was the garden. Gardening was my happiness, life, renewal, and hope."
Let the teens tell you about their work themselves in the short clip below, head on over to their pieshell crowdfunding page to help them reach their funding goal, and learn more at greengardenbakery.org. The campaign runs through June 2.