With our digging forks we dug
And with our hands we tugged
Unearthing garlic on a sunlit morning.
We pulled up Zemo, then some Jack
Taking full wheelbarrows to the barn
And bringing empty ones back.
We harvested it all after harvesting four rows
With eight people it’s amazing how fast it goes.
Then we tied with our hands
Bundling garlic with twine strands
Stringing them under the old barn roof.
Some of us tied knots
While some of us hung.
Some worked and talked
While some worked and sung.
We hung up hundreds, and more and more!
Til leaves and fallen cloves littered the floor.
Now admire! A morning’s work is done!
Who knew that garlic could be so much fun.
By Amelia Kaufman, 2013 Crew Leader!
On Monday, July 1st the summer program kicked off with the crew leader training and on July 2nd, 18 additional high school aged youth showed up for their first day of work. In total, there are about 25 youth working at the Youth Farm this summer. The crew members are coming from the Ithaca High School, the Lehman Alternative Community School, and the New Roots Charter School. While the crew leaders have either just finished high school or have done some years at college (with the exception of Rayna). The first day is filled with rules/expectations for work, emotional/physical safety, and working agreements/hopes for the summer. Although we have a lot of important details to cover, we also throw in fun name games, a tour of the farm, an explanation of how the farm fits into the Ithaca community, and some farm work. One of my favorite activities that we do on the first day is that each one of us puts his/her favorite word on the chalk board one at a time and explains why it is important to him/her and their prospective summer at the youth farm. This year, my word/phrase was “sense of place,” which I shared was important to me because I was born in Ithaca and I have worked at the Youth Farm for the two previous years before this one. My strong sense of place in Ithaca and now at the Youth Farm instills in me a strong love for farming sustainably with high school aged-youth (I got into to growing things during 11th grade at LACS) and growing lots of vegetables for Ithaca City Schools. Now if you visit the Youth Farm you’ll understand what this list is all about.
This summer, I will no longer be a crew leader, but will be taking a new role as assistant farmer and assistant program coordinator. In addition, I will be leading the on-farm agricultural/environmental science education. We will be learning about the various elements and practices involved in farming sustainably. Some topics that we will explore are what is soil and what makes healthy soil, various tractor implements on the farm, composting, cover crops, weed I.D. and weed management, pest and disease management, how chickens and bees fit in, nutrient management, and of course a conversation about how all these components are connected. Some new components of the farm that I am excited about are: a working hoop house where we are growing tomatoes and bell peppers, four new breeds of chickens, a beautiful plumbed sink on the side of the barn, 75 raspberry plants, a few goose berry and asparagus plants, and more.
This summer, I’ve been blessed to have my 16-year-old brother Raffi work at the Youth Farm Project. Last summer, he wrote a famous ballad called “I hate farming” after a morning of forced family fun, weeding the carrots at the farm, but this summer he has been loving it! He has even been tending the garden at my mom’s house after I moved out. With three years of experience under our collective belts, I’m excited for a summer filled of making new friends, learning, working hard with one another.
Youth stand proudly in front of a big fall harvest of copra onions!
When the Youth Farm Projects 2012 summer season came to an end and I began to gear myself up for a new school year, I couldn’t imagine spending my days inside, rather than that the farm. I left the summer program with an immense feeling of accomplishment and pure joy. Never before have I had an experience that had such a huge impact on my interests and passions. I was overjoyed when I was invited to continue working part time at the farm for the rest of the year.
This was the first year that the Youth Farm Project was able to partner up with the Youth Employment Service (YES) of Ithaca to hire youth to complete a year round position at the farm. There were usually about four young people working during a given week. We worked 1-2 days after school from 4-6pm and Saturdays from 9am-1pm.
Fall at the farm is a whole different scene, hot busy days of weeding meld into crisp days that leave you with gorgeously full buckets of beans, peppers, kale, broccoli, collards, brussel sprouts, potatoes, onions, beets and carrots. During the fall months we harvested over 2,000 pounds of potatoes! Digging for potatoes is like digging for treasure. You enter a rhythm, pushing a pitch fork into the soil and lifting to unearth beautifully grown potatoes. Harvesting onions was one of my favorite fall tasks. When onions are ready to harvest the top of the onion is reveled. You can see the lovely yellow or deep magenta purple of their fruit. As you harvest you pop then out of the ground, leaving behind a little divot in the soil. During the fall most of the food produced on the farm goes to the BJM Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program and ICSD. Nothing filled me with more excitement than seeing potatoes in my school lunch that I had harvested the previous weekend.
We slowly finished harvesting fall crops and began to allow the farm to slip into a sleepy trance of dormancy. The thing that amazed me most about the farm during the winter was the amount of potential held quietly in the snow covered fields. It is sometimes unbelievable to me how much the farm produces. To see it totally quiet, yet know that so much life was being contained and stored up for the spring was breathtaking. During these cold months we busied ourselves by cranking out jam and salsa. We make jam from currants and raspberries from a local berry farm, Kestrals Perch (Thanks Katie!). In some batches we add a bit of jalapeno pepper grown at YFP to create a unique warm tasting jam. Our Salsa Verde is made from our tomatillos and jalapenos, it is so delicious to eat with tortilla chips, or on just about anything!
Beginning the spring farming season was a joyful time. Seeding flats was our first task, though tedious at times, I poured my excitement and energy for new life into the job, knowing that I would soon be rewarded with the task of transplanting. As the spring months have passed we have been hard at work cleaning out the barn, building and preparing our new hoop house, raising a new batch of chicks and transplanting flowers, basil, tomatoes, kale, collards, cucumbers, squash, lettuce, onions, leeks and much more! Our first spring harvest was peas! They were delicious, especially after spending hours planting and weeding them! As we transition back into the beautiful mayhem of summer I couldn’t be more grateful to have gotten to experience the farm in each stage of its being.
After working on the farm for a full year I am back for another summer. Throughout the year I have familiarized myself with the farm to a greater extent and learned so much more about the different work we do on the farm. This year I am taking on more of a leadership role within the program working to lead one of the four crews of youth on the farm. It’s awesome to be able to share what I learned over the year with the people in my crew. I hope that I can help them to feel excited and empowered by the work we are doing, because it is really special work.