The Greenagers Farm Apprenticeship launched in the spring of 2013 and is part of the Greenagers Community Work Initiative. The Farm Apprenticeship pairs local youth with local farm employment opportunities to provide work on farms that will teach youth new skills and raise their awareness about local sustainable agricultural models. Youth candidates are age 15 to 24 and express an interest in working in agriculture. Eligible farms vary widely, but must have an available position for hire and an interest in working with young people. Farm Apprenticeships run year-round; interested farmers and youth are accepted on a rolling basis.
In 2013, four youth and four farms comprised the program. Two students at Mount Everett Regional High School worked with two Sheffield farmers, James Larkin Jr. and Bruce Howden. Two Monument Regional High School students worked at Woven Roots Farm in Lee and Tyringham and Pumpkin Hollow Farm in Great Barrington. The apprentices performed a wide array of tasks including equipment and machinery operation, hand tool operation, and handwork including planting, harvesting, and pest management. This year’s participating farmers have between ten and twenty-seven years of experience and include conventional dairy, organic diverse vegetables, and crops like corn and pumpkins. While most have been working the same land for ten years or more, one participating farm started its first year this season – the Greenagers apprentice was the farm’s first “employee!”
The Farm Apprenticeships increase youth engagement in the community by connecting them to local farmers and everyone related to the farm: family, friends, neighbors, other staff, customers, suppliers, etc. It raises awareness of environmental issues related to our local food system like manure management, pesticide application, and soil amendment application. It builds important skills for our youth. Ultimately, it strengthens our community by creating knowledgeable and caring future stewards of the land.
“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.” Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food.