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.