How To Empower Youth With A Farm: Be Like Lee

Can agriculture change a culture?

Some of you are thinking, “of course it can!” Others are scratching your heads. Today I’d like to introduce you, whether you are the first person or the second, to a woman taking opportunities in the new age of agriculture with such spunk and determination that she’s changing the culture around her in a very apparent way.

Just an hour speaking with Lee Spiegel gave me great respect for a woman who’s not afraid to work long hours, press on through adversity, and create a community-based farm business with very few resources.

In my opinion, we need more women like Lee Speigel building farms like Pulaski Grow. Pulaski Grow is a vertical farm that both enriches the lives of the people in Pulaski County and pours generously into the lives of youth in need of real-life training for successful futures.

If you want to empower youth with a farm, there’s not a better role model anywhere than Lee.

But I’ll let Lee tell you a bit more about the farm.

About Pulaski Grow and its youth readiness training program

Pulaski Grow is nestled in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia where we enjoy four lovely seasons and a nice breeze most days. Summers bring humidity and winters varying amounts of snow and ice, which can be interesting for greenhouse growing.

I’m Lee Spiegel, the founder and Program Director for Pulaski Grow, the culmination of a 29 year old dream. Pulaski Grow operates a workforce readiness training program for youth ages 14 to 18 inside a working aquaponics and hydroponics business.

The business allows youth to gain hands on work experience while practicing many of their soft job skills.

An aquaponics business was a perfect fit because:

  • it meets the need for year round, healthy, local produce
  • it provides a way to sustain the non-profit training program
  • and it offers a wide and unique skill set for trainees.

In addition to youth training, Pulaski Grow also offers workshops for adults on aquaponic growing and encourages volunteer participation with both training and growing.

An exciting future

Pulaski Grow set out to be the premier job readiness program for youth in the state and region while providing the highest quality produce to the local community. In the first few months of operation there has been a tremendous amount of interest in the training and youth volunteer opportunities on site as well as the aquaponicly grown produce.

Pulaski Grow has already been nominated for Outstanding Non-Profit by the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce after just six month of growing and four months of youth work. With a large number of volunteers and wonderful community support, Spiegel is thrilled and amazed to be moving both the business and the training program toward its goal at the current rate.

Why ZipGrow?

When looking at the various ways to grow healthy produce in an economical way, ZipGrow towers were the logical choice. Not only do they allow you to grow much more in a smaller space and save on utility cost, both of which are very important for a non-profit business, they are destined to be a large part of the future of agriculture.

When training youth to be ready for work in the future it only makes sense to train them in the methods that will be the norm and give them a leg up in the process. Currently, all the herbs, lettuces and leafy greens for the Pulaski Grow CSA , farmers market and local vendors are grown in ZipGrow Towers.
Lee Spiegel

With her dedicated team, her strength as a community builder, and her determination to change her county, Lee is making the change that we all hope to see. We’ll be following Pulaski Grow as it expands and breaks into the surrounding communities, and we hope that you will, too.


Like Pulaski Grow on Facebook and leave an encouraging word! Share this wonderful farm with friends and family. If you would like to empower the youth in your own community through farming, check out our free Webinar and get the conversation started with our Nutrient Cycling Discussion plan.

Needless to say, Lee will be on our list of the most inspirational women farmers this year.

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