The Youth Farm Project summer program came to a beautiful end this past Friday (8/24) after seven memorable weeks of becoming good friends, learning about social justice and food system issues, and growing four acres of vegetables. 25 high school age students ranging from 14-18 and eight older coordinators, including our amazing farm manager/educator Ann Piombino, gathered at 9:15 in the barn three days during the week (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) to work out in the fields to plant, harvest, weed, mulch, trellis, irrigate the crops. And on Wednesdays we gather off the farm to learn and cook food together. 1/4 of which is the U-pick for the Full Plate Collective and the other 3/4 of the farm goes home with youth, goes to Markets, and the majority of the food will go into the Ithaca City School District and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Programs (now also at Cayuga Heights Elementary School) once schools start. The Youth Farm Project's Dream is too transition into a full year program where youth can experience the full fall Harvest and can be involved in getting the food into local schools. Because our Mission is to get healthy food into schools for free or at the cost of conventional produce, to provide a place where a diverse group of youth can get to know each other through learning to grow food together, and much more we rely on the support of grants and donations to keep the program going. If you are able to donate please visit the donate tab on our website. And donating isn't the only way to support us: Come find me, Joseph, and Ann on Saturdays from 10am-1pm to learn what were up to and to lend a hand.
My name is Rayna Joyce and I am a sophomore at LACS. This summer was my first year working at the Youth Farm Project. I first became interested in working on the farm, while working with a group at LACS called Localvores. Localvores is a group of about 20 high school students, run by the amazing Dan Flerlage, that works to bring fresh vegetables that come from the Youth Farm into our school lunch program. During last school year we made pesto, jam, salsa and many other delicious items from fresh produce and served them as part of school lunch for the entire school. It has been great to work on the other end of things this summer, to actually produce the food that is then used by groups like Localvores and the BJM Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.
This was an exciting and eventful week on the farm! On Wednesday we all took a field trip to visit the Good Life Farm in Interlaken. The Good Life Farm is a beautiful 69 acre, organic farm run by Melissa Madden and Garrett Miller. With its rolling hills and view of Cayuga Lake it is simply breathtaking. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the farm and a brief look into the unique, sustainable practices that Melissa and Garrett use. After the tour we helped to mulch two beds of purple cabbage. This opportunity to see some of the wonderful things other farmers in our area are doing was really special to me. It inspired me and left me excited to learn more. If you would like to see more about the Good Life Farm, I would encourage you to check out their website: http://www.thegoodlifefarm.org/. From the farm we headed to Taughannock park for a fun and relaxing picnic.
We were joined this summer by Zac and Satira who were working on the educational portion of the YFP. With them they brought us a whole little house full of chickens! Throughout the summer we watched these chickens grow. The hens in fact just started to lay some of their first eggs recently! This Thursday we were able to bring the experience of raising the chickens to a close with the slaughter of three of our roosters. On Thursday morning we were given the opportunity to watch the killing of the roosters. Many of us chose to watch and participate in the processing of the chickens, helping to pluck, gut and remove the meat from the chickens. This felt like such an important step in really understanding exactly where our food is coming from, and the process of turning a live animal into the packaged meat we are used to buying at the store. After the slaughter we had a powerful discussion on the impact this experience had on us. A big shout out to Zac and Satira for the amazing work they are doing. We are so lucky to have them working with us and teaching us this summer!
As the week came to a close on Friday we visited a neighboring farm in Danby, where our friend Farmer Harry is raising cows. He gave us a tour of his farm and we helped him to turn a large pile of compost, and remove some stones from one of his fields so that he could mow it. Back at our own lovely farm we got a taste of the chicken meat from the roosters we slaughtered and processed on Thursday. It has been a week full of amazing experiences and learning.
The Youth Farmers and their friends and family waiting in line for a delicious meal.
The floor was swept at least three times, just that I saw. After you sweep in the barn, there’s always someone who will come along and do it again, just because it’s the nature of the grey concrete floor to accumulate dirt in such a way that it never looks clean. However, it was cleaner on that night than I’d ever seen it before. It made it hard to believe that we’d been making messes at various cooking stations all day, as if trying to dirty the barn as much as possible before we spiffed it up. As someone used to seeing the barn in its everyday state, I was more than impressed with the freshened facility that would greet our families and friends that night.
When I arrived at the dinner, it was shocking to see people wearing something other than grungy farm clothes. Was that my co-crew leader in a skirt and sandals instead of a holey t-shirt and old sneakers caked with dirt? Their makeovers were just as good as the one the barn itself received. In addition to the fancy clothes, everyone wore an expression of well-deserved pride. As our older and clumsier parents fought their way up the hill to the fields, we became the leaders. It was us who knew where the bathroom was, which plants were planted where, and all the ins and outs of the irrigation system. I felt automatically more important as I introduced myself to the group, because it was through this simple action that I took my place among those who worked there every day, trekking up the hill to the farthest field and toiling under the hot sun for hours. Every adult there knew someone who worked on the farm too, so there was no way they hadn’t heard about the outrageous heat or the blistering intensity of the sun. But we farmers were united as the ones who had braved the weather to accomplish something.
Not only could our parents see it in the beauty of the farm, but they would also taste our success that night. The tart sweetness of the currant crisp perfectly balanced the light pesto, and complimented the kale salad and expertly cooked collards. Meanwhile, the slide show displayed the dynamic of the farm so well! Our jokey shots gave our guests a taste of the lighthearted nature of our community while the pictures of us among the rows proved that we’d done a lot of hard work all summer. Hard work bonds people like nothing else, and the hours in the field that sometimes felt interminable had culminated in this one event from which we could all see that we’d become valuable, contributing members of a community that had just gotten a little closer.
My name is Serena Mendola I am 17 years old and this is my 3rd year with the Youth Farm Project. I joined the Youth Farm Project because I feel immense pride in healthy relationships and healthy food.
In our third development session of the summer program we discussed the concept of food Justice. As a group we explored the different degrees of food insecurity. We determined that food justice is not only when everyone has enough to eat. But that food justice is when everyone has access to vitamins and minerals found in wholesome good food and is not just meeting their calorie needs by eating Twinkies. On this same development session day we had Jhakeem, a member of the Ithaca community, come in and speak to us about his philosophy that led him to create Ithaca's Congo Square market. Congo Square Market is from 4pm-8pm and features a lot of great vendors! Check out the website @ http://www.congosquareithaca.com. I think it is fair to say that Jhakeem was able to spark one of the most interesting and inclusive discussions we've had. He shared with us his belief that everyone is forcefully pressured to be self enslaved primarily as a result of the systems we abide to. He introduced us to his strong belief that we as an international community will not be free until we have the freedom to witness the outcome of our seemingly innocent actions. For example, actually seeing the negative effects we have on far away places may enable us to make the decision to fight for change. After our discussion with Jhakeem we cooked a nice lunch using kale and garlic from our very own farm! In addition to lunch we had a blind taste test of local and organic cucumbers vs. conventional cucumbers. Most of us were able to notice the distinct difference between the two cucumbers. Not surprisingly we concluded the local organic one was super crunchy, more colorful and more tasteful then the conventional cucumber.