Learning from The Food Project

As the farm education intern here at Land’s Sake, my summer has been dedicated to leading Green Power. From helping to coordinate daily activities with Doug Cook (Education Director) to scurrying around the farm making last minute preparations every morning, I have learned from experience how to carry out a summer youth program that gives young people the opportunity to learn work skills on a production farm. Last week, though, as Green Power had a week off, I had the serendipitous opportunity to learn off the farm from the experience of a leader in youth programing in sustainable agriculture: The Food Project. The Food Project Institute, held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week, is a workshop that runs twice a year and is geared toward farm educators, community members, farmers, and other interested folks who want the chance to get an inside look at The Food Project.

I have difficulty describing all that I did in those three days — I surely could fill pages with the important lessons I learned and experiences I had last week. Held at the Lincon farm on Wednesday and Friday and at the Dorchester urban farm on Thursday, the workshop gave me the understanding of how The Food Project runs their Summer Youth Program. This program employs around 90 youth from all over the Greater Boston Area every summer to work on their farms. On Wednesday morning we plunged into the history of The Food Project. We learned that since it’s infancy this organization has been unwavering in it’s dedication to carrying out it’s mission through creating a strong management system and a culture of community support. Throughout the week our focus was also directed at understanding their farming models, learning about fundraising, and discussing the other programs that The Food Project run.

On Thursday and Friday I had the chance to see the Summer Youth Programs in action. At the urban farm in Dorchester we met two crews harvesting produce for the farmer’s market that afternoon. With the program being more than halfway finished, the youth in these crews looked more like groups of childhood friends clearly enjoying their time together while also working hard to harvest as many tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers as possible. I got to watch youth leaders preparing the crews for a day of hard work by creating a sense of fun, excitement, and support with in the group. The crew leaders at The Food Project are responsible for leading the youth in field work and do so masterfully so as to best create a strong, productive community in the youth program.

This week, as I settle back into leading Green Power, I am struck by the subtle adjustments I have made in my leadership style already. This morning I enjoyed playing “Face-off” and “Everybody’s It” with the Green Power crew to energize them before setting off to weed the strawberry patch, the result of which were one and a half long beds well weeded. They became connected to their work, wanting to work a half an hour longer to finish the job. Green Power offers an opportunity for youth to learn about farming, food, and service through hard work and from the community they each help to create. I am excited to continue sharing my experiences from The Food Project Summer Institute with Green Power and Land’s Sake.

Brittany Dunn

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