In Summer 2019, five teens from Lodi Academy were planning ahead for their fall sophomore biology trip to the Mendocino Coast. The price tag on this venture, however, was steep. So, the friends since kindergarten got creative. Using a plot of land from one member’s grandparent’s property, the crew—Daphne McCann, Dylan Kaestner, Ethan Nevis, Jaylen Lemos, and Spencer Hall—started growing pumpkins to sell. When the holidays hit, they shifted to holiday décor using wooden pallets, and in Spring, the fivesome planted a garden. Before they knew it, the fall trip was done and the group now had a new venture ahead—an East Coast history trip was scheduled for Spring 2021.
Every season, the goods change to match demand. What started with pumpkins and holiday décor has grown to include canned foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. “Instead of just pumpkins, we planted all kinds of produce: tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, etc.,” Spencer Hall, 16, says. In the early days, a lot of the group’s work would sell at craft fairs, but with COVID-19, social media is its main vehicle for sales. “Since almost all of us have our license, we offer delivery services as well,” says Daphne McCann, 16, a junior at Lodi Academy.
“Our personal goal was to raise enough money to take care of our school trips,” says Dylan Kaestner, 15. But if you ask Ethan Nevis, another team member and Dylan’s cousin, he’ll tell you that a small project of growing pumpkins quickly morphed into a small business created by five families.
The kids and their families take turns tending the garden, breaking wood, and hand-painting signs. “I’ve learned new things, I got experience with having a job and I got to see how a business functions,” Ethan says. “I personally learned how to use different tools and machines, I got to increase my artistic skill, and most importantly, I got to raise money for my history tour.”
Part of the magic is knowing each other’s strengths. “When we make our wood décor, I wouldn’t dare try and do anything artistic. I’ll leave that to Ethan and Daphne,” Spencer shares.
The group reached their goal at the end of summer, but they don’t plan to stop working. By November and December, Jaylen Lemos, 17, says the group will have wooden crafts to sell. Plus, they will continue to offer free deliveries to customers in Lodi, Stockton, and Galt to make their business more accessible through the pandemic.
“I want Five Teen Farms to be our personal legacy that is passed down through the families,” says Daphne. “And do well enough that when we, the original five, come back and visit Lodi we can go visit the farm, knowing that we started something that has helped so many teens like us.”