Youth-Centered Urban Agriculture with a Mission

Client:   Hope Blooms
McInnes Cooper, Lex Mundi member firm for Canada (Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and P.E. Island) Sectors: Youth Mentoring, Agricutlure Issues: Incorporation, partnership agreements, charitable status

Hope Blooms is an innovative social enterprise that launched in 2007 with nine youth members, an unused plot of land in a disadvantaged neighborhood, and a motto: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

While working as a registered dietician at the North End Community Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jessie Jollymore met often with residents who faced chronic illnesses and food security issues. Those experiences demonstrated firsthand the underlying economic challenges to healthy eating.

Jollymore’s work at the health centre, combined with inspiration that came to her when walking past an abandoned lot, compelled her to begin a youth-led grass roots initiative in the inner city. The project enables and empowers community members to take ownership over their food sources, while creating opportunities for youth to develop entrepreneurial skills.

With guidance and support from adult mentors, community members, local businesses, and neighborhood agencies, a group of motivated adolescents turned that abandoned plot of land into a flourishing community garden where they grow organic produce and use ingredients from the garden to create organic salad dressings to be sold locally.

Today, the Hope Blooms community garden is at the heart of the organization’s youth-centred urban agriculture program which is aimed at fostering the development of youth skills and community health and wellness. The Hope Blooms salad dressing program is completely youth-led and is designed to foster entrepreneurial and leadership skills amongst youth. All proceeds from the salad dressing sales are used to fund the organization’s broader youth entrepreneurial programming and youth-led community programming, including youth-hosted community dinners, soups for seniors, family garden plots, community agricultural training, career-focused mentorship for local youth and participation and training for youth in advocacy and public speaking related to food security issues. Participating youth are also supporting post-secondary education endeavours in their own community, as one dollar from every bottle of salad dressing sold is deposited into a youth scholarship fund.

McInnes Cooper, the Lex Mundi member firms for Canada (Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), has provided substantial pro bono assistance to Hope Blooms. The relationship, which began with a simple incorporation filing, grew to include advising on structuring the organization, helping to define, negotiate and document its relationship with various community partners during a period of rapid growth and success, and applying for charitable status. Since their work began on the initial incorporation in May 2013, McInnes Cooper lawyers have donated more than 130 hours of pro bono time, amounting to roughly $30,000 in legal fee equivalence.

In addition, the firm supports Hope Blooms through the Community Engagement branch of their Collective Social Responsibility initiative. The firm has also funded equipment purchases, provided meeting space for strategic planning sessions, and placed Hope Blooms’ single largest order of salad dressing to date.