It’s been a busy week on the farm. We have been hard at work picking rocks, weeding, trellising tomatoes, mowing pathways, transplanting fall crops, harvesting and putting plastic on our newest hoop house. On Tuesday we were joined by the GIAC Skate Campers who worked hard in the fields with us for the morning and then helped our wonderful guests, Damon and Jackie, from Fruits and Roots Juice. Together we juiced kale, cucumbers, carrots, beets, apples and a touch of ginger to make a delicious drink to nourish ourselves for the afternoon. In addition to lots of work on our farm, we also spent time on two other farms this week. On Monday we visited Kestrel Perch and gleaned gooseberries. On Thursday we spent the day at Rocky Acres Farm, where our farmer friend Rafael Aponte is raising goats and chickens.
What stands out most to me about this week was our development session on
Wednesday. I began the morning a bit early, and spent time harvesting chanterelles in the forest
with Dan and Amelia, before heading to LACS. As we hunted and harvested we talked about the
excitement and satisfaction of foraging for food and being able to have an image of exactly
where your food came from. Our development session was focused on learning about many of
the health issues related to the way most Americans eat. This is my third summer working at the
farm, and each year we have discussed these issues, mostly focusing on Obesity and Type II
Diabetes. Even though the information was not new to me, it still shocked me to learn how many
people are, or will be suffering from these problems. It angers me to understand the injustice in
these numbers, and the way that socio-economic status plays a role in determining who is likely
to experience these health problems. To balance out our discussion we shifted the conversation
towards a brainstorm of ways that we, at the Youth Farm Project, can do to combat this
inequality, and positively change the opportunities and health of those in our community. We
hope to expand our work in the coming years, in order to educate more people (especially young
people) about these issues, and reach out to folks who may not have access to local, healthy
produce. Among many ideas, we discussed the possibility of becoming part of or starting more
farmers markets in areas of town that have less access to supermarkets and farmers markets, as
well as donating more of our produce to food pantries in the area, especially in Danby, where our
closest neighbors reside.
As part of the session we were asked to think about a meal that left us feeling completely
satisfied. Each person wrote a brief summary of what they ate, who they ate with, where they ate
and how they felt afterwards. Several of us shared with the group. Each person who shared
talked about the process of preparing the meal with friends and/or family and then eating with
those same people. So often in our culture it seems that we forget the importance of creating and
sharing food with a community, and the meaning this holds for all of us. The meal that we
prepared on Wednesday couldn’t have better embodied this idea of delicious food and
community. Our guest chef Rachel Ostlund helped us prepare Fritattas with swiss chard, onions,
garlic and chanterelles, Kale and Toasted Bread Salad, Beet and Bean Salad, Zuchini Muffins
with Lemon Glaze and our very own “YFP Soda” with cucumbers, mint and lemon basil! Before
we ate our meal we folded fancy paper towel napkins, set a long table and sat down together. I
felt appreciative as I ate the meal, enjoying the beautiful fact that as a community we had grown,
prepared and eaten this food together.
After reading this I hope you will take the time to prepare and share a meal with some of
the wonderful humans in your life!
Written by Rayna, 2nd year crew leader
Week 3: 7/14-7/18
Hi, it’s Vicky. This is my second summer at the Youth Farm and my first year as a crew leader. The summer here seems to be flying by and we’re already three weeks in! People are becoming closer and building stronger bonds; it’s great. And there is so much smiling. Everyone has blessed me with hilarious conversations and so much laughter.
This week was a particularly great week at the farm; good weather (not too hot or cold), in-depth conversations and lots of laughing. Everyone on the farm did a lot of hard, fulfilling work this week and through it, we were smiling and getting very dirty. Just my crew alone seeded over twenty flats of basil, zucchini, and lettuce in one morning. Then as a whole group, we discussed the meaning of sustainable farming.
Wednesday was our weekly development session at LACS. We had two local leaders in the community, Kirby Edmonds and Jemila Sequira, come to speak to us. Kirby Edmonds, Dorothy Cotton Institute Fellow and Coordinator of Training for Change, led an informative discussion about structural poverty in Tompkins County. Kirby shared that the local employment/education/prison system gives children in poverty very few options for escaping poverty. Simply put, youth in poverty can end up with two options for employment: 2-3 minimum wage jobs or illegal activity such as selling drugs. Also, the public education system doesn't prepare youth to break out of this poverty cycle. This, on top of the fact that poverty can restrict access to capital to pursue higher education or to start a business. Kirby didn’t stop his talk at the hard to break cycle of poverty, but showed that public education, workforce training, and other types of social justice organizations have so much untapped potential to help us all attain ownership in the way we provide for ourselves, family, and community through living wage jobs, access to capital. Next, Jemila, Whole Community Project coordinator, shared how she became a leader in the local food justice movement and shared projects from the community.
The chef for this week was Shimels Damtew, owner of Shimel's Ethiopian Cuisine, a pop-up food stand, came and cooked some delicious beef tips, bean/carrot saute, and greens with us. I wish I knew how to describe this with more detail, but I do know that the food was amazing!
Thursday and Friday, we planted potatoes for four hours. It was a lot of potato planting but my crew had a lot of help from other crews so we got three rows done and after that, we stood and marveled at how quickly and efficiently something can get done if you have ten kids all setting their minds to it.
Written by Vicky, Summer 2014 Crew Leader, and Joseph.
Week 2: 7/7-7/11
We started off the week strong by splitting into four smaller crews that we will continue to work with for the remainder of the summer. We worked on many tasks such as staking, trellising tomatoes, seeding, mulching pathways and of course WEEDING. It was lovely watching the crews work together and start to get to know one another as individuals rather than just faces in the crowd.
On Wednesday we spent the day at LACS in our first development session of the summer. We worked in crews to break down the process behind one item of food. By doing this we discovered just how convoluted our food system is and the fact that most of the time we (the consumer) aren’t even aware of where our food comes from.
We were lucky enough to have a guest speaker: Jhakeem Haltom, founder and manager of Congo Square Market, who gave a new, eye opening perspective on what it means to live in modern society. He captivated the room and held our attention throughout with his views on the modern day slave saying that “the worst kind of slave is the one who does not know that they are a slave.” By the end nobody knew what to say- still reeling from the power of his statements and the questions that he posed.
In addition to Jhakeem, we had the opportunity to work with Frank Purrazzi to build an unforgettable lunch menu. We made homemade ramen with greens, eggs, and some delicious kimchi with fresh ingredients from the farm. It was an excellent development session that left everyone thinking about some really important issues that effect us all whether we are aware or not.
Something that stuck with me this week was the question “what is a food system?” posed by Joseph and Rafa. As we sat in the barn, one could almost feel the ideas forming- the sound of gears turning, connections being made. It wasn’t necessarily the question itself, but the fact that the group took the time to analyze and break it down to make the answer their own. The discussion left many with a new perspective on what we are doing here on the farm and what we can continue to do in the larger community to improve and build upon this concept of creating a sustainable food system.
All in all it was a really strong week and I look forward to seeing where the summer takes us and what knew ideas will be formed.
By Zofia, crew leader summer 2014
On July 1st, twenty high school age youth arrived to work on the first day of the Ithaca Youth Farm Project's Summer Program. The first few days of the summer program serves as an orientation to the Youth Farm. The orientation period is filled with various games/ice breakers to get to know one another and to create a safe environment from the beginning. In addition, we spend thoughtful time together in the barn to set goals for the summer, to commit to working agreements and common standards, and to introduce everyone to the Youth Farm's mission, vision, and history. Last, but not least, we spend time exploring the fields that we are farming this year and we get a good taste of the hard/rewarding work that will fill our summer. (picture: The 2014 Summer Crew stands proudly in front of the weeded onion beds and pathways).
The Youth Farm is proud to present an annual report from the 2013 Year. As a young organization this represents a huge step for us as we improve our organizational structure. Check it out!
This article appeared in the Ithaca Journal on September 28th and was written by Majorie Olds. I changed a few details to correct some minor inaccuracies.
"...While at Guilford, Simon remembered how he liked to eat all kinds of unhealthy food as a teen, and how some of his habits were not good for him. During his years at LACS, he got to know adults and kids who talked about getting healthier fruits and vegetables into the schools. From his LACS friends, he learned healthier personal habits; teens find it smoothest to learn from each other. He started asking himself, “Who grew this food? Where did it come from?” He saw the connection between food (growing healthy food in healthy soils), and justice (grown by people treated fairly). Everyone needs and deserves access to healthy food. Everyone who provides food deserves healthy, fair work conditions.
When Simon came back from his first year at college, he met four dynamic people who were starting a youth farm: Dan Flerlage, a LACS science teacher; Katie Church, of the Full Plate Community Supported Agriculture (CSA); Kirtrina Baxter, at the time the assistant director of the Southside Community Center; and Anna Piombino, a farm manager.The four founders brainstormed about high school kids growing food while learning about the complete food cycle and how everyone is affected by the food system we have. The first year, as the founders tried to bring their ideas to life, the Youth Farm Project was small and slow to flourish. Simon volunteered consistently that first summer. Mostly, he remembers the waist-high weeds, the heat and the lush potential of the farm project. Simon graduated from Guilford College, and he returned to the Youth Farm. The intersection of teens and farming appealed to Simon when he first encountered the Youth Farm project. Now, four years later, it seems like an even better choice. A lot has happened in the last four years.
Simon recounts some of its many successes:
“This summer, 20 high school students ran the farm with adult support. The teens really got into the YFP. They took their job of growing food seriously and understood that working in the fields is the mainstay of the project. They also had fun as they ‘built community.’ Whatever barriers to friendships existed at the beginning of the summer were surmounted by the end of summer; everyone was excited to come to work.”
In addition to growing more food than ever before, the YFP also added chickens to their project in 2012. In past years, the YFP borrowed or traded labor for the use of other farms’ equipment. This summer, with generous support from local funders, they were able to purchase some basic equipment. What YFP workers can’t make or trade for, they will continue to buy from locally owned stores, because they see themselves as part of the interconnected local economy. This summer, YFP deliveries were made to Collegetown Bagels and Agava; in the coming weeks, produce will be delivered to local schools and to the Full Plate CSA.
At the end of the summer and later this fall, the YFP will be making currant-raspberry-jalapeno jams and various salsas. They’ll sell these products at farmers markets and at Congo Square, and share with Loaves and Fishes. What they can’t can, cook or share, they will freeze.“It’s taken time for people to get to know us, but we are continuing to become better farmers and become more connected with others each year, and people in the community appreciate that,” Simon said.Now that the YFP is winding down for the summer, Simon is turning to his newest challenge — to bring what he has learned to incarcerated teens. Simon and Anna Susmann, co-owner with husband Herb of the beautiful Besemer Greenhouses, have created a program where teens will grow vegetables in a small greenhouse while talking about gardening, world food distribution, world hunger and all the intertwined topics.
Born in Guatemala, Simon arrived in Ithaca to live with Gail and Zellman Warhaft when he was 6 months old. He wonders what his life would have been like if his parents had not found him. He feels he has been surrounded by all that he needed to become the person he is today, and this propels him to share his good fortune with others.
“My parents helped us think about others,” he said. “I am extremely fortunate to be in my current situation, and I want to help others have opportunities, too. I see value in others, and I try to help others realize their potential.”
Simon has seen the YFP grow stronger each summer. They’ve faced challenges, and they’ve made adjustments adding lots of mulching, cover crops and crop rotations. The weeds are minimal now with just routine maintenance. Everything is good and will only continue to get better".
This article is by Erin Barrett of the Ithaca Times. The original link is http://www.ithaca.com/news/youth-farm-project-breeds-experiences-opportunity/article_dc807866-14f2-11e3-be60-0019bb2963f4.html.
"Around noon on a late August day, the barn of the Youth Farm Project at Three Swallows Farm is a pleasant commotion of two dozen bustling teenagers preparing food for a dinner to be held that evening for around 90 parents and YFP supporters.
The teens work in circles at various tables, chopping vegetables, hand-mixing egg yolks and oil, bodies keeping time with the music, capable and focused. A group of boys pass by daring each other to drink the by-product of one recipe: zucchini juice.
“Why not,” one replied, “zucchinis taste great; the juice can’t be that bad.” Not a bad way to spend a summer.
Ann Piombino, manager and founding member of YFP, explained the project was started four years ago as “a way of having youth become an integral part of a sustainable food system and to create job opportunities.” YFP was the result of collaboration between Three Swallows Farm, the Full Plate Farm Collective CSA, the Southside Community Center and Lehman Alternative Community School. The project employs youth ages 14-18, from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, for a seven-week program that focuses on sustainable farming practices. The teens work on the farm for four hours a day, three days a week, and spend Wednesdays in a classroom setting, learning about social and food justice issues from local volunteers in the morning, and new vegetarian recipes from local chefs in the afternoon.
These development sessions are a favorite of many of the YFP participants. As Simon Warhaft, 21, a three-year volunteer of YFP, explained “there is an epidemic of not knowing where our food comes from and being around the YFP staff and volunteers I saw that I could make a real impact in the community.” Warhaft continued, “the program really helps kids focus on the positive impacts of their actions on the environment.”
In addition to farming skills and food and social justice education, YFP teaches communication skills to the students through games designed to encourage them to be specific and direct. Fridays on the farm feature “straight talk,” feedback sessions during which positives from the week are highlighted as well as “deltas,” areas that would benefit from positive change. During the first week of the program participants are asked to write one or two words on a chalkboard that express what they hope to get from their seven weeks with YFP. The board is kept in the barn throughout the program; the list is thoughtful and mature and features goals such as: trust, exposure, accomplishment, commitment, and consideration.
YFP’s five acre farm is contracted with Full Plate, maintaining the U-pick field for CSA members, the Beverly J. Martin Elementary Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Snack program, the Ithaca City School District and LACS lunch programs, and YFP produce is sold at the Friday night Congo Square Market. Many of the teens also listed producing food for the local schools as one of their favorite aspects of the program. As Anna Pensky, 16, stated, “I like getting to see what my efforts produce and getting to share that with classmates in school.”
YFP funds the workers through multiple sources, including grants, the Town of Danby, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Workforce NY, and Youth Employment Services. Last year YES and YFP began employing three or four students per season, throughout the school year. The students work after school two days a week and on Saturdays, harvesting and cleaning up in the fall, making and canning jams and salsas during the winter, and preparing the farm for planting in the spring.
Due to limited transportation to and from the farm during the school year, Mike Smith, a program leader at YES, drives the students from school to the farm, works alongside them and brings them home in the evening. Smith said of Piombino, “Ann really works to support the kids and the community and we like to support her.”
Rayna Joyce, 15, was one of the students working on the farm last school year. Standing in the loft of the barn amidst rows of hanging garlic lit by shafts of afternoon sunlight, the swallows that inspired the farm’s name flitting in and out, Joyce demonstrated confidence and maturity beyond her years.
“The community aspect,” she replied when asked her favorite aspect of YFP, “the project brings together diverse youth from around the community who may never have met. Working in the field you’re talking with each other, learning powerful stuff together, that really brings people together in a unique way.”
Saturdays at YFP are community work days, members of the community are encouraged to visit the farm at 23 Nelson Rd from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to volunteer in exchange for experience and information on organic farming practices. To learn more about YFP visit its website at youthfarmproject.weebly.com."
Hey I'm Taylah! This was my second year working on the farm and my second year being a crew leader. As something I really grew to love, it was awesome being able to show people who'd previously never experienced working on a farm how it works. Working with my co-crew leader, Amelia was one of the funnest parts. We really balanced one another out. Since we had the youngest and biggest crew, they were sometimes hard to keep on task but we always brought them back together. By the end of the summer, seven very different people found common ground in farming.
This year, I took on more of a leadership role and presented in front of all members of the Youth Farm Project. The past two years, I've realized the tremendous connection between advertising and the decisions that people make in their daily lives. I realized through observations and a little bit of research that advertising could be the key to stopping global climate change and creating a different attitude towards how we treat the earth.
I asked if I could share my findings with the rest of the farm and I got the okay to do it. I began with a trivia-like game, where I had the farmers "Complete the Jingle." For example, I'd sing "'Cause Oscar Meyer has a way..." and often excitedly someone would yell "With B-O-L-O-G-N-A." I asked ten of these questions and answers were instantaneous. After I asked questions about things that surround us daily. Since we are in the finger lakes region, I asked "How many finger lakes are there?" I found that answers were much less quick. People were stumbling over their answers and guessing. It was astonishing that people could quickly recall the jingle to bologna that they don't even eat, but they don't know how many lakes there are like Cayuga within less than one hundred miles of them.
After this, I went on to tell them statistics, just to reinforce the point that advertisement really rules the world. It was magical, giving definitions to the things that all of us had been exposed to since we were born. I could see people's eyes widen in disbelief when I told them tactics that advertisers use. I was giving them just a little bit of media literacy and that went a very long way. After my presentation, I could see in the discussions that we had that everyone was beginning to connect the dots. It was wonderful to pass on knowledge about something like advertising because many don't know how powerful it really is.
I applied for a job via the Youth Employment Service just looking for something to do and make some extra cash during the summer. I picked the Youth Farm Project as my first choice because I always enjoyed gardening and outdoor work. But what I didn’t know was that this wasn’t just going to be a boring summer job. I came into the Youth Farm Project not knowing anything about it. Not knowing that it was about community, food justice education, and a very rewarding summer of hard work and fun.
Before the Youth Farm Project my experience with farms had been minimal. I lived in New York City for sixteen years and so when I moved to Ithaca, seeing all the farms everywhere was almost a magical sight. But I wasn’t just a pure city kid. My grandfather who lives in Amherst, MA in the woods in the middle of nowhere always fascinates me by his knowledge of the nature and the land he lives on. He is not a farmer but he knows everything there is to know about the trees and plants and wildlife that live around him. And in the same way, farmers like Ann and Joseph know so much about their farmland and the weeds and crops that they grow.
There are many aspects to the Youth Farm Project. The most important one is actually learning about the basics of farming and what jobs are required to maintain a healthy and successful farm. The daily life on the farm consisted of tasks of all sorts ranging from weeding, harvesting crops, mulching beds, putting up fences, trellising tomatoes, feeding the chickens, setting up irrigation systems, transplanting and much more. Tasks that would ordinarily seem boring or repetitive become fun and the time flies when you’re laughing with your crew and making endless farming puns.
The hidden aspects of farming- and food are easily overlooked, and the Youth Farm Project does a superb job of making its workers aware of these issues. Every Wednesday, instead of working in the fields, the Youth Farm Project gets together at ACS (the alternative high school in Ithaca) and discusses food justice issues and the economics of sustainable agriculture. In the afternoons a chef comes in and helps the Youth Farm Project cook up a healthy, fantastic meal using crops harvested from the farm. For me, Wednesdays were the days that really put our hard work into perspective and gave it genuine meaning.
The third thing that the Youth Farm Project gave to me was growth. Not just growth of newly transplanted, but growth as a person. I was one of the co-crew leaders of my group and this position really helped me advance my leadership skills and bring out my confidence. But more importantly, I didn’t feel like was working above or under anyone, everyone was on the same page and the environment was so friendly and welcoming.
Farming no longer became some abstract imagine of a man in denim overalls driving a tractor, it became a group of friends and laughter and hard work. It became personal. It became the reward of not just hard work, but meaningful work and a great learning experience.
By Willow Hunt, Summer 2013 Crew Leader
Natalia and Willow's Crew hanging out with the chickens (Buff Orpingtons).
If my heart were a plant, its sun would be a healthy little chicken--small, warm, and tucked under my arm for safekeeping. Because when I hold any of our chickens, and feel their gentle clucking, I swear my heart grows a little. There's a sense of care and protection that comes when you carefully pick up an adorable chicken, and stroke the soft feathers on its tiny head that cocks to the side with question or surprise. The only gross part of a chicken to look at are the scaly dinosaur feet that sprout out the bottom of each of their plump legs, but the Silky Bantams make even a foot look cute. Their white tufty feathers fluff over their toes, which is a good look for a rooster sprinting towards food. Besides the Silky Bantam variety, the Youth Farmers are proud caretakers of Barred Rock, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Speckled Sussex, and Buff Orpington chickens.
Each morning, a crew whose chore it is that week, will make its way across the street from our cultivated fields, to the bright pink chicken coop. They lug a bucket of water across the treacherous country road, clean and fill the water dishes, change the bedding, feed the eager hens, and collect the smooth, brown eggs. It's safe to say that this is my crew's favorite chore. Even crew members who were initially hesitant about picking up a flapping bird have grown confident, and will scoop up a squawking hen and gently pet her feathers. It would be impossible to not love our flock.
Of course, chicken duty is not our only job, and a task that is not so instantly gratifying is weeding. Unfortunately, the summer heat and constant rain create perfect conditions for weeds to shoot up, faster than should be possible. While the crew is less enthusiastic about yanking endless plants from the pathways and beds, we try to make that fun, too. We make conversations about the British humor in Monty Python sketches, or play word games for as long as they can still be fun, but these discussions inevitably taper away. Truthfully, weeding is a lengthy and monotonous job. But we do it anyway, and I'm immensely proud of the way my crew can motivate each other. We have begun referring to weeds as the bullies on a playground, picking on our poor, innocent vegetables, and we are determined to protect our plants so they can grow. The work we do results in incomparable satisfaction.
This satisfaction comes at the end of the day, when we see freshly cleared pathways and newly exposed vegetables stretching their leaves to the sun, or take a look at the vast pile of discarded plants that used to be crowding our fields. Our job is special in this way; there are few other types of employment that require manual labor for hot, sunny hours outside, but end in such a unified sense of pride. Some of my crew members will never farm again, and maybe some will pursue it as a lifelong career. Either way, we get the privilege of spending our summer together, bonding with chickens, weeding weeds, and feeling the sweet satisfaction that comes with some good hard work.