Youth teach youth!
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.