Summer Farm Program

This July, Greenagers will partner with the RSYP Culinary Arts Apprenticeship to expand on a summer work crew piloted by Greenagers in 2010. Last year, Greenagers hired an 8-member youth crew to help with restoration, conservation and agriculture projects in the Southern Berkshires. Greenagers, RSYP, and Farm Girl Farm are pleased to combine efforts and offer the first youth farmer training program in the area.

Here is what one participant had to say about the benefits the Greenagers Work Crew brought to the business:  “The Greenagers work crew made all the difference at Farm Girl Farm last summer.  They weeded and mulched our entire crop of kale and chard in two days!”  – Sara Wallach, farm girl 2010.

The proposed dates for the program are July 5 – August 30 (8 weeks), on each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 8:30am-5pm. There would be one team of 8 youth, with one adult crew leader, and one youth as assistant leader, working at 3 farms, each farm on a set day of the week. Work Crew members will receive $9/hour.

The initial farm partner is Laura Meister of Farm Girl Farm, and other farms are being approached as future partners. Possible other projects or field trips the team would take during the session would be to Hudson Valley farms, helping out at farmer’s markets, making deliveries to local restaurants, maintenance at Project Native, and assistance on the Front Lawn Garden project through Greenagers.

The crew leader will be an adult with extensive experience in leading teams of young people on outdoor work crews.  A youth crew assistant on each crew will also have experience with working on a crew, and this work will be an opportunity to further develop their leadership skills.  Each day will include a Greenagers daily reading and response. The group will read and journal on topics in conservation, agriculture, and outdoor recreation. The program will also offer two workshops on financial literacy and college application/resume writing for each youth participant during the course.

This summer farm program differs from many similar summer youth crews, in that participants will be paid for their time. Our team has found, increasingly in recent years, high school students are only willing to commit to an extensive summer program if it is also a paying job. This program provides teens with the income they need, invaluable hands-on experience in an authentic workplace, the opportunity to develop their own group leadership skills, and introduces them, by immersion, to a growing segment of the local economy.

The benefits for the participating farms of having a crew of 8 energetic young people one full day per week for 8 weeks are obvious.  Farm Girl Farm staff have identified several projects that the crew will take on:  weeding kale, chard, collards, broccoli, leeks, onions; harvesting garlic and onions; trellising tomatoes; mulching beds; laying plastic/ plant winter squash; upkeep of water systems; and the harvesting of vegetables for CSA pick-ups.

Chef Brian Alberg, of The Red Lion Inn and the RSYP Berkshire Culinary Arts Apprenticeship Program and on the board of Berkshire Grown, will offer additional instruction for the participants of the summer work crew.  Alberg will introduce students to the kitchen, where the farm vegetables and meats are used to prepare the area’s most highly regarded cuisine.  Alberg’s commitment to using fresh, local, organic ingredients has led many youth graduates of his culinary class to plant gardens of their own.

Alberg and the students will culminate the Summer Farm Program by preparing a harvest dinner for Berkshire farmers at Farm Girl Farm in September. Students may also enroll in the fall culinary program through RSYP.

The summer farm program is seeking sponsorships from individual community members for the $72/day cost of sponsoring one youth in the program.  The organizations are seeking grant funding for the overhead admin and payroll expenses.  If you would like to donate, please contact Will Conklin at Greenagers 413.644.9090 or Lannie Moore at RSYP 413.528.2475.