Through vision, passion, hard work (a lot of volunteer hours), and the tangible support of the Park Foundation, as well as the greater Tompkins County community the Youth Farm Project has reached a critical turning point. The Youth Farm Project is poised to make key structural and financial changes needed in order to transition to become a truly sustainable community asset (as it’s clear that we cannot keep riding on passion and hard work alone); one which empowers our local high school youth, while addressing issues of food justice and environmental sustainability within our community.
As the Youth Farm Project enters its fourth year, we reflect back on the first three years where we turned an exciting idea into a concrete program, which has positively impacted the lives of many. 25 high school youth joined us for our summer 2012 Program where we managed four acres of vegetable crops, which consisted of planting, prepping beds, weeding, harvesting, trellising, using new hand tools, and learning through practice along the way. The summer program was made up of a good mix of students from Ithaca High School and the Lehman Alternative Community School. In addition, there were also youth from Groton, Lansing, New Field, and homeschool represented. There was an even mix of students of color and white students, which has been a core part of the YFP mission from the beginning.
Some memorable moments from 2012 included hearing youth yell that they loved the farm as they walked down to the bus stop. Or watching a few young people stay after the program day and hang out with new friends in between rows of cherry tomatoes. We consistently heard from YES coordinators and youth that those youth that came onto the farm not knowing what to expect were loving learning, working hard, and hanging with folks their own age. Through experiences like these we’ve realized that we aren’t just growing vegetables, but cultivating youth leaders who care about their community and the soil.
In 2012 we were able to more consistently continue to engage youth through the fall and winter. High school students, college students, and community members continued to join us for our Saturday workdays to harvest potatoes, onions, carrots, radishes, kale, collards, to plant garlic, and to help take down the fencing and irrigation. For the first time, four high school students were employed through the YES, Youth Employment Service, to work after school two days a week and on Saturdays. They braved the cold weather to harvest, to sort potatoes and onions, to bring the farm to a close. In the cold months, they also worked inside making jam, testing kale chip recipes, and helping prep snack with Megan Begart for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program (FFVSP).
Near the end of 2012 we convened our first advisory meeting where some amazing leaders in town gathered to help us take us steps towards our fundraising, organizing, and outreach goals. In addition, for the first time we sent out our first annual mailing to family, friends, and community members to raise awareness about the Youth Farm Project and raise money to support us in the New Year. We want to send a big thank you to all those who have been apart of the Youth Farm Project during the first three years and we want to send an open invitation to everyone that wants to be involved in any way. Thanks so much!