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.