Delite Primus will soon step down as executive director of the Youth Garden Project (YGP), handing the reins to Utah-native Ruth Linford. As Primus leaves the nonprofit organization — which recently celebrated it’s 20th year growing “food, families and community” — both women said the staff and board members have the solid footing they need to continue serving the Moab community.
“I just love that the space is such a healthy, safe, welcoming space for youth, but really for community members of all ages,” Primus said of YGP. “I think that is so valuable for the world that we live in and our community in particular.”
Primus first began working at YGP in 2008 as associate director. She stepped into the role of executive director in 2012.
That year, says board member Trish Hawkins, YGP lost federal AmeriCorps funding, which at the time provided one-third of the organization’s budget and 90 percent of its workforce.
“[Primus] managed to figure out how to make YGP survive,” Hawkins said.
After the federal funding loss, Primus created YGP’s internship program, with options in both education and gardening. She says she also put “a lot of energy, time and effort” into new funding sources, while increasing the organization’s efficiency and decreasing expenses.
That effort, Hawkins said, made YGP even stronger.
“She’s really left YGP in the most incredible position,” Hawkins said.
As a viable garden, YGP has an annual presence at the Moab Farmers’ Market, sells food to local restaurants and runs a CSA (community shared agriculture) program. The nonprofit also hosts community-based events like “Weed N Feeds” gatherings, garden dinners and a variety of workshops.
But YGP might be best known for its local youth programming, which serves more than 2,200 kids each year from spring and summer camps as well as in-school and after school garden-based programs.
“I think there’s a lot of organizations that focus on local food, and there’s a lot of organizations that focus on education, and then there’s obviously a lot of community-building organizations across the nation, but I think that YGP is really unique in combining all three of those,” Primus said.
As the new executive director, Linford says she’s looking forward to furthering YGP’s network of community partnerships and sharing what she calls “our magic.”
“I feel like the garden and [Primus’] work here grounded the nonprofit. Now we have these roots, and now we can actually grow,” Linford said. “... There are communities in Moab that do not access the garden — yet. I’ll be actively seeking out different communities, figuring out what they want, how we can partner, figuring out how our magic can increase their magic.”
Linford has previous experience with the “magic” of YGP. In the summer of 2012, she served as an education volunteer with the garden, which she says sharpened her career focus towards community and education.
“I left that summer and pursued other education, other experience, but my time at [YGP] was at the center of it,” Linford said. “I kept remembering those moments with the kids, with [Primus], and with the general magic of this place.”
Born in Ogden, Linford says she always wanted to return to her home state, even as she pursued a master’s degree in community art education in Texas. Other experiences building programming around artists in the Mississippi Delta showed her the impact that she could have doing something similar back home.
“[In the Mississippi Delta] there were African American males teaching African American males. The power in that was electric,” Linford said. “I knew that I could have that same power in my home state. I can impact in a way that I don’t think anyone else can impact. I wanted to honor that.”
Linford describes her early life as “the kid that didn’t even know I had a community around me,” someone who didn’t think beyond her suburb’s block.
She wants to help children in Moab experience building community “from the start,” an idea that Primus has also pursued in her role at YGP.
Results of a Student Health and Risk Prevention Survey (SHARP) showed that many youth in the local community did not feel connected to any place or person in the community outside of their family. Primus said those results were a strong motivational factor.
“That really struck a chord with me — ‘wow, we really need to do a better job.’ It’s actually considered a strong preventive factor for a lot of issues if youth feel that they have a strong network of support,” Primus said.
That charge, of building a network of support, has stayed with Primus through the years and informed YGP’s ongoing mission to cultivate healthy children, families, and community.
“We need to be constantly thinking about ways to make that connection with more kids in our community, and more community members in general,” she said.
It’s that community, Primus says, that she will most remember about YGP, from the kids to the staff members and volunteers.
“This place is full of people that have been incredibly dedicated and incredibly talented, that have shared their talents and time and hard work to grow food, teach others how to grow food and invest in the lives of Moab youth,” Primus said. “It’s amazing and inspiring to work with each of them.”
A public goodbye and thank you party with refreshments will be held for Primus on May 2 at the Youth Garden Project, 530 South 400 East, from 4 to 6 p.m.