FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Youth Farm Project and Wood’s Earth announce merger that will integrate programs engaging youth in the local food system.
Contact: Rafael Aponte, Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
ITHACA, NY July, 2016—The Youth Farm Project and Wood’s Earth announce a merger of their organizations. The two organizations began in early 2016 to transition toward becoming one organization under the name Youth Farm Project as a project of the Center For Transformative Action.
“This merger offers unique potential,” said Dan Flerlage, co-founder of the Youth Farm Project and teacher at Lehman Alternative Community School. “It brings together complementary programs that both work to connect our local youth more directly to their food, while involving them as agents of change in creating a more just food system within our community.”
Wood’s Earth co-founder Audrey Baker, who proposed the merger, added, “The merger will also lead to more efficient use of community resources, while creating exciting new possibilities for food systems curriculum development tied to bringing fresh, local food to school meals and snacks.”
As part of this growth, the Youth Farm Project is also announcing the hire of a director, Rafael Aponte. Rafael has been working with the Youth Farm Project as an educator and as an organizational mentor over the last three years. He brings in-depth experience and expertise in community organizing, farming and social justice education. He owns and operates his own farm, Rocky Acres Community Farm and co-founded the Harvest Box Program.
The Youth Farm Project (YFP) occupies a 10-acre farm just outside of Ithaca, leased from the Ithaca Waldorf School. The Youth Farm Project runs a 7 week Summer Program where 25 young people are employed and involved in all aspects of farming; from seeding, to cultivation, to harvest, and to market. The Summer Program curriculum includes community stewardship, the relationship of the food system to power and privilege, self-advocacy and communication, public speaking, anti-racism training, team building, nutrition, culinary skills, and more.
YFP grows over 10,000 pounds of produce each season, which is distributed in Ithaca City Schools, the Fresh Snack Program, Farmer’s Markets that we attend with our Mobile Market, and through our accessible farm share, the Harvest Box Program. YFP is dedicated to healing our food system through an anti-racism organizing lens by bringing together youth from diverse backgrounds to explore issues of environmental and social justice within the food system. YFP also offers farm-based learning opportunities and programming for class field trips, after-school programs, enrichment programs, and youth and community groups.
Wood’s Earth has grown up to two acres of vegetables on their farm site in the Town of Ithaca. Wood’s Earth programs have focused on supplying fresh, local produce as a significant portion of school food ingredients, while providing youth with educational opportunities to connect with the foods they eat in school on the farm, in the classroom, and in the school kitchen . The organization partners with the Ithaca City School District’s Child Nutrition Program to supply and process fresh produce for the ICSD school lunches. Since 2014, Wood’s Earth has managed the Fresh Snack Program, which serves fresh fruit and vegetable based snacks to over 900 students in the highest-need ICSD elementary schools. The Fresh Snack Program is also merging under the Youth Farm Project.
Combined programming resulting from the merger will lead to new opportunities for our local teens to connect more directly with elementary aged youth, by both growing fresh whole foods for school lunches and the Fresh Snack Program, and by working in the ICSD central kitchen, preparing snacks and meals for younger members of our community. Farm-based education and school food production are now centralized at the Youth Farm, with consolidated equipment and resources. The combined offices are in the Just Be Cause Not-For-Profit Development Center.
The staff of the organizations also are uniting, ensuring full leverage of their established partnerships and sharing their expertise in curriculum development, youth and community organizing, food production, networking and fundraising. A new youth and community advisory group will be formed to inform and guide the Youth Farm Project in its education and community endeavors to ensure the organization is based in service to the community.
The decision to merge came after eight months of discussions, and the two organizations became one project of the Center for Transformative Action in June of 2016. They are forginga merger that most effectively integrates the strengths of both organizations while creating unique opportunities for unity within the community.
Wood’s Earth was a project of the Center for Transformative Action, and Youth Farm Project was formerly a project of Social Ventures, Inc.
Woods Earth and the Youth Farm Project, Inc. have received funding locally through the Park Foundation and the Community Foundation, both of whom are supportive of the merger.
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