Youth-Adult Partnership Spotlight-Spring 2022

Seed Catalogs are Sent in January

It’s March.  It’s officially spring.  And, it’s time to plant seeds. . . almost.

When I returned from Guatemala, I told my dad I wanted to learn to garden.  His specific knowledge of best practices was often simplified to a garden built on hills and trenches that you visited daily.  We didn’t speak much about seed selection.  People who work in all aspects of education often speak of planting seeds, and we also focus on that act itself.  

This spring I find myself asking a lot more about the seed selection itself:

  • Which seeds?  How did you select your variety? 
  • Where did you purchase the seeds?  From whom?  When?  
  • Is it the first time you’re planting them?   If it’s not the first time, are you planting them in the same place or a different one?  Both?  
  • Are they annuals?  Perennials?  
  • Are you not using seeds at all, but in fact seedlings started by someone else, somewhere else?

The reason I have this new question focus is based on the amount of time, more easily acknowledged, spent in the pre stages of program, especially program that embeds youth voice.  Each winter Zoom meeting was the equivalent of pouring over seed catalogs that every gardener knows arrive not in January, March.  Small activities and deep conversations resulted in the selected seed packets, social justice, mental health and post college access.  

Next steps for spring become inviting my community garden(ers) to shared spaces with the tangible work in front of us of where and when.  Which seeds need to be planted now?  How often will they be tended?  How will we determine where and when to thin?

These questions may seem a bit too much metaphor at first, but they are part of a sequence of embedding youth voice.  This sequence has three parallel tracks that merge and diverge as the individual gardens take place.

  • Open Recruitment:  This is the most common invitation.  Open recruitment means selecting a date, time and place to meet for a particular task and sending emails, flyers, social media posts to anyone who may be interested.  This is a wide net but it is not a personal nor specific ‘ask’.  It depends on many layers of relationships and does not generally reflect the high level of need for the voices you want involved.  
  • Key Inside Partnership:  This invitation relies on organizational and/or personal relationships.  You select individuals who work with and/or serve the audience you need to interact with in order to get going.  The ‘ask’ is specific, but it does not require all the details of the end goal to be created at the time of the first interaction.  You also can easily return to check back in with these groups.
  • Experience (Project, Program, Event):  This strategy showcases the kind of outcome you want, like a free sample or taste test.  It intrigues your audience by providing examples of what you’d like to create with them, but at first only asks them to be a recipient, no strings attached.  You gather good info and you have fun doing something you know you love to do and adds value, even if it’s just the one time.

The three strategies above are ideally used together, not only to plant the garden but to continue to tend it.  After all, hills and trenches need to be reworked often.  If I dig into my dad’s bookshelf, I can still find colorful drawings and diagrams of his garden layouts as he tried new arrangements and pairings.  For some seeds, you will have multiple plantings.  Some produce all summer and into fall.  Others are short lived spring explosions. For each of the tracks it also helps to create a simple table.  

Implementation Timeline Audience or Specific Contact What do they need to know?  What actions do they need to take? (Key Content) How will we communicate?  How will we share the information?  What different formats can we use?  What have we used that has been successful?  (Strategy) Responsible


Below are links to Wisconsin 4-H and Community Youth Development Extension programming, which for the purposes of this blog I will consider to be a seed catalog of sorts.  I added other community initiatives as appropriate since some seeds are bought and others seeded through natural cycles.

Youth-Adult Partnerships were the focus of the annual 4-H Leader Training this past year and the Experiential Learning Cycle, the basis for both program development and youth program content.

Youth Adult partnerships

Experiential learning cycles

Chris Clover

Community Youth Development