Editor’s note: This year, the Missoulian has a reporter and photographer spending time with the Youth Harvest program of Garden City Harvest, a nonprofit with a mission to build community through agriculture. Today, we start weekly profiles of the crew members and leaders who are working on the PEAS Farm.

Jesse Linton remembers the first time he walked onto the PEAS Farm, his impression of its vastness.

“I just remember thinking it was really big. It was bigger than I was expecting,” Linton said. “And then we took a tour and actually walked around, and I just realized how secluded it was, and I can get away from people, and it was a great place to deal with your thoughts.”

That was more than three years ago, and now, his favorite thing about the farm in the Rattlesnake Valley is the community it builds, one he gets to call his own.

“I love coming up here and feeling a part of something,” Linton said.

He loves the gratitude present on the farm, too, a sentiment he never experienced in his former job at a local pub.

“I was there 15 minutes early every day and took on extra shifts and helped other people out and busted my ass and nobody ever says thank you. You never get any type of appreciation,” Linton said.

It’s different on the farm and in the Youth Harvest program of Garden City Harvest, no question.

“If I’m here 15 minutes early or move a cart out of the way, somebody is letting you know that is awesome,” he said.

Linton has grown into his time on the farm, moving from a place of dissonance to more peace. In the beginning, in 2012, he would either quit or be fired from his job, and last year, problems at home and a case of the “eff-its” almost did him in.

He remembers the turning point last year, when harvest was in full swing and he got pulled into the farm office. He had racked up numerous work violations, and he knew he was on the verge of being terminated.

“I was pretty stubborn and closed up and didn’t want to talk about what was irritating me,” Linton said.

As much as he tried, Linton had not been able to leave his problems at the gate, as he’d told himself to do, and he was mad at himself for bringing baggage onto the farm. At the meeting, three Youth Harvest leaders talked with him, including Jean Zosel and Morgan Hartford.

“(Jean) just let me know and made it apparent that I was welcome here, and they liked having me here,” Linton said. “And hearing those words come out of her mouth, that I was wanted here, and I did good here, that made me feel really good and kind of snapped me back into it.”

After the talk, Morgan took Linton aside and offered him advice that has stayed with him ever since. He told Linton he knew he really liked the farm since he’d returned, and he told him how to keep his bad attitude at bay: “Find what I really liked about this place and hold onto it when I get a case of the ‘eff-its,’ ” Linton said.

This year, Linton is the crew leader, and he helps other young workers when they get similar symptoms of apathy. He graduated from high school this summer, and has plans to continue his education after the fall semester.

“Before working here, I was not interested. College was not on my radar,” Linton said.

Come spring 2015, he’d like to enroll in the environmental studies program of the University of Montana; at least, that’s his plan so far. Sometimes, it’s still hard for Linton to leave his problems at the gate, but the Missoula native is mostly dealing with challenges in a different way.

“Ethan and Laurie really help me get through all the family issues,” Linton said of Ethan Smith, operations manager at the farm, and Laurie Strand Bridgeman, Youth Harvest director. “I know if I ever needed somebody to talk to, I can call up any one of them.”

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Reach Keila Szpaller at @keilaszpaller, at keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5262.

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