Growing a Life

Teen Gardeners Harvest Food, Health, and Joy

Available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book (also exam or desk copies for instructors) through our distributor NYU Press.

Part engaging conversation, part comprehensive fieldwork, Growing a Life demonstrates just how influential educational and community gardening programs can be for young teens. Follow author Illène Pevec as she travels from rural Colorado to inner city New York, agrarian New Mexico to Oakland, California, in order to study youth gardening and the benefits it contributes to at-risk teen lives. Extensive research, supplemented by beautifully candid interviews with students, illustrate the life altering physical and mental benefits that mentored gardening programs can provide. Giving readers the opportunity to examine the largely unexplored topic of urban gardening, the programs discussed present models for future educational and community based gardens. Each destination brings with it an abundance of programs geared toward educating teens by giving them the tools they will need in order to have fruitful futures. With an emphasis on positive psychology, Growing a Life delves into the minds of underprivileged teens and what gardening means to them.

Illène Pevec offers her expertise and insight into the profoundly good effects of youth gardening programs on the lives of young adults, and her most powerful evidence is in the honest voices of the teens themselves. This is a terrific book.
—Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder and Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life

This is an astonishing book! It will inspire you from the first sentence no matter how long you've been involved in the garden world. Because of Dr. Illène Pevec's research, I am beginning to understand what lies beneath our need to grow plants—and that's after almost 40 years promoting urban agriculture. Read this book!
—Mike Levenston, Executive Director of City Farmer Society

This book makes a strong case that well designed gardening programs promote positive youth development. Exactly how they do this is explained by young people in their own words: words that amplify the research that Pevec reviews. The eloquence of the adolescents who share their feeling and experiences in these pages is deeply moving and inspiring.
—Louise Chawla, Professor Emerita, Environmental Design Program, University of Colorado–Boulder

Growing a Life shines a spotlight on youths' transformational experiences in their urban school gardens, and uses their own words to clearly illustrate the power of nurturing living things to change children’s lives—improving their health, their connections to their communities, and their empathy and care for the Earth. Every educator and school administrator should have a copy.
—Sharon Gamson Danks, environmental planner and landscape designer, founding director of Green Schoolyards America, and author of Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation

Timely, well-written, and easy to read for people interested in urban agriculture, youth development, and social justice issues. The combination of narrative, personal anecdote, and more scholarly research presents a convincing case for more programs like the ones in this book.
—Jody Beck, Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Colorado–Denver

Pevec’s first-person documentation of adolescent lives in transition makes this book a remarkably inspiring and grounding read. The interviews, collectively, reveal the holistic ways hands-on learning, mentorship, positive social settings, and a caring relationship with plants can positively affect young lives. The book serves as a powerful call to action for school-based garden programs.
—Cam Collyer, Executive Director of Programs at Evergreen, Canada


Title Growing a Life
Subtitle Teen Gardeners Harvest Food, Health, and Joy
Edition First Edition
Publisher New Village Press
Audience 01 General / trade
Credit Illene Pevec
Title First Published 27 September 2016
Includes Bibliography; Notes


Preface: Do Our Brains Change While We Garden?
Introduction: Why Teens? Why Gardens?
Chapter 1: The Green Bronx Machine
Chapter 2: Planting Trees, Tomatoes, and Transformation
Chapter 3: Sustainable Technology Effect
Chapter 4: Challenges These Gardeners Face
Chapter 5: Choosing Higher Education
Chapter 6: Sowing Seeds for Success
Chapter 7: Gardens Grow Healthy Youth
Chapter 8: ¡Cultiva! A Market and Youth Leadership Garden
Chapter 9: Colorado Rocky Mountain School
Chapter 10: Roaring Fork High School
Chapter 11: Yampah Mountain High and the Teen Mother Gardeners 
Chapter 12: Adolescent Health and the Food Environment: What Difference Can a Garden Make?
Chapter 13: Oakland Gangs or Gardens? 
Chapter 14: Changing the Urban Food Desert 
Chapter 15: A Samoan American Gardener 
Chapter 16: Youth Reach out to the Community 
Chapter 17: A Mentor Goes the Extra Many Miles 
Chapter 18: Love Cultivating School Yards 
Chapter 19: Game Theory, Optimizing a Food Business 
Chapter 20: Taos: Ancient Traditions, Young Farmers 
Chapter 21: Sembrando Semillas: Community Irrigation 
Chapter 22: Albuquerque: Project Feed the Hood 
Chapter 23: Cultivating Health, Happiness and Peace
Chapter 24: Physiological and Neurological Research: Clues to Why Gardening Benefits the Gardener