Growing Bright Futures

Jul. 18, 2018 null



Most Iowa farmers dig into the state’s fertile farmland to grow produce that feeds and fuels the world. Housed in the middle of downtown Des Moines, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers (IHYC) is taking agriculture in a new direction: up.


The IHYC Rooftop Garden is taking an innovative approach to providing job training to the youth it serves by placing shipping containers on the roof of its facility to grow produce year-round to sell to local retailers and use in the onsite kitchen. Youth utilizing the IHYC program will be hired to maintain and harvest 1,000 plants each week during a four-month apprenticeship, while learning in-demand job skills like logistic management and culinary services.


This innovative project was sparked into action by being named runner-up in the 2016 Ignite Community Innovation Challenge. As the project grew, so did the Community Foundation’s support. A Leadership Grant, funded by the Better Together Fund, was awarded in 2017 and the Community Foundation’s Leadership Circle invested additional support.


Thanks to the Community Foundation’s support, we are bringing this unique nonprofit model of urban agriculture to Greater Des Moines,” shares IHYC Executive Director, Toby O’Berry. “This project is more than developing a sustainable source of fresh produce. It is a sustainable model that provides young people with real-life skills to succeed in the workforce and break the cycle of poverty.