From May to October, we worked intensively with 14 teenagers and 10 8-12 year olds in a newly launched ‘Junior Farmer’ program. These Junior Farmers included eager kids that looked up to the work of the teens and asked ‘can I have a job too?!’ Although we couldn’t put them on the payroll, we were so excited to invite them into our daily operations and they truly rose to the occasion. These teens and younger kids did not go through a laborious application process – each and every one of them approached us with a heartfelt desire to be involved. They brought a unique perspective on how they wanted to be involved, but also came with a wide-open willingness to help wherever needed.
The teen group was integral to the Highland Park Senior Produce Distribution Program and truly touched every part of it. They designed flyers, delivered flyers into mailboxes up and down the neighborhood, shoveled soil to prep planting beds, planted, pruned, mulched, trellised, weeded, saved seed, replanted and mulched perennial borders, and of course participated in the weekly ritual of harvesting, washing, packing and delivering bags of fresh produce to neighborhood seniors. The teens took on additional projects both offered by us as staff but also inspired by what they were interested in. They dried herbs and flowers, put on bee suits and participated in beehive inspections, helped with community events for kids, helped lead virtual classes for off-site groups, and were all around tour guides and ambassadors for anyone who visited the farm. The decision to go deep with a few proved to be extremely meaningful and impactful, as so many people recognized these teens and Junior Farmers as leaders in their neighborhood. At our 3rd annual Summer Showcase, we were able to welcome almost a hundred people to learn from the proud young farmers. Many of our senior produce recipients attended, as well as community gardeners, friends and family of the teens, neighbors new and old; it was truly the most celebratory and lively day at the farm this season.
In 2022 we continued to work closely with the science specialist from Nathan Hale School, which allowed us to bring each and every student down with relatively little coordination and with great effectiveness. The science specialist was able to use the farm as a secondary classroom and the students, some of whom have now visited the farm for their last four grade years at school, continue to express a healthy sense of ownership of the space and true connection to the land. These students often visited the farm after school hours with friends and families, showing off their work and their learning and beaming with great pride.
We are additionally thrilled to continue to work with Paige Academy. This neighborhood alternative school has inspired us for years and we’ve been so honored to be part of the Paige Academy legacy by having the students integrated into the day-to-day life of the farm.
In addition to having students participate in farm work, learn about all aspects of sustainable growing, and create natural art projects on site, we were also able to send a lot of our fresh produce into the Paige Academy kitchen, lovingly prepared by the chefs there and enjoyed by the very same children who helped to grow the food.
In 2022 we worked with three new Roxbury youth partnerships with great success.
The Higginson School brought their younger grades for a series of spring field trips where the 4-7 year olds jumped right into insect exploration, planting, taste testing and more.
Roxbury Roots Montessori (RRM) which “seeks to offer an affordable, child-centered, authentic, high-quality, African-centered, Montessori program in Roxbury–an historically underserved community” opened in 2021 and is just a short walk from the farm. We were able to host weekly sessions with all students over 10 times through the fall. Students explored every aspect of the farm, reading earth based stories, creating art projects, tasting, harvesting, planting and more. They welcomed their drumming instructor who held his classes at the farm as well. RRM brought students who were both brand new to the farm and some whose families had already visited and the group became a strong, integrated partner over the course of just a few months.
Beat the Streets which “empowers youth through wrestling” in addition to tending their own community garden plot, joined in farm work a number of times, participated in farm-to-table TBK classes and even hosted a workshop station around herbs and herbal teas at our Summer Showcase. The teens in the program learned all aspects of sustainable farming through the season and quickly became a youth staple at the farm.
In 2023, we plan to continue to work closely with Beat the Streets, Higginson School, Roxbury Roots Montessori, Nathan Hale and Paige Academy, as well as inviting back other Roxbury youth and teen organizations.