Another Great Season at Food Works Farm!
As October has made way for November and most of the leaves have changed colors and fallen, Village Gardens is also starting to get ready for winter. The community has been busy putting gardens to bed, the livestock project had their last work day of the year winterizing the chicken coop, and the Food Works crew has been cover cropping their fields and selling the last of their winter squash. Overall, we have been gathering our collective harvests and celebrating the successes of the 2013 season.
At Food Works, Village Gardens’ youth run farm on Sauvie Island, there has been a lot to celebrate. It’s been another productive season – the youth grew more than 15,000 pounds of certified organic produce to sell at Village Market, New Seasons Market, Sisters of the Road, our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, PSU farmers market, St. Johns farmers market and Village Gardens’ farmers market, making over $27,000 in sales.
While tracking the pounds of produce grown and dollars made are important to the sustainability of the program, it’s really just a part of what we do here at Food Works. The real work we do is a little harder to quantify – supporting youth in finding personal success and becoming leaders in their communities. Food Works had 10 returning youth this year in the Market Crew whose primary role was to lead farm work days, sell at the farmers markets and support the incoming youth participating in our Summer Program (the eight week introduction to Food Works). We frame this work around growing four things: the Farm, the Business, the Community and the Self. We had an amazing team of youth this season who took on new leadership opportunities and ran their farm business all while figuring out how to communicate and work well with each other. DeAndre, a sophomore at Jefferson High School reflected on his journey from Summer Crew Member to Market Crew this year:
“In my first summer, going to the farm was a chore, but after I became a market crew member and had more responsibilities, it became a choice and a cool place to be. Some of my responsibilities were to be a role model to the summer crew and be another set of eyes for the farm. The summer crew members seemed to look to me for advice, whereas the year before, I was in the same position.”
Peer support and youth leadership is the heart of what we do at Food Works. Armondo, now a senior at Reynolds High School, has been working at Food Works for four seasons. It has been a real joy to watch him take on more responsibility each year and become an amazing leader.
“When I first joined Food Works I just turned 14 and I really didn’t know too much about farming or anything about plants to be honest, I was shy to put out my ideals and wasn’t enthusiastic about leading anything! A year went by and I reapplied for summer crew. I knew how to plant things in the ground and I knew how to remove weeds but other than that I still felt lost in my own little world. The next year I decided to step it up a notch and try on a leadership role. Having done summer crew twice I felt confident enough to lead summer crew and step out of my comfort zone. After completing that summer I was thirsty for more leadership roles. I started school a whole new person that strives to make his voice heard, I signed up for leadership classes, I volunteered to be a student leader at outdoor school, and I was leading almost anything I could. My summer position this year was Portland State Universities (PSU) farmers market manager; working at PSU was a life changing experience, every week I learned something new or tried something new like kimchi, tight-rope balancing, and purple bell peppers. I’ve learned customer service & cashiering skills here at Food Works that I don’t even see at other businesses, the confidence and public speaking skills I picked up over the years has helped me in class oral presentations, meeting new people, and speaking out my ideals.”
Many of the youth involved have commented on how Food Works is like a family. We work on creating a safe and inclusive community where youth can openly engage, share ideas and have fun together. Retsum, a Junior at Benson High School talked about what Food Works has meant to him:
“I really wanted money in the beginning, but I really didn’t care after the first month. I just like working there – it’s like your second family. Everybody is nice to one another, it doesn’t matter where you come from or what religion you are. It didn’t matter how you acted because everybody acted goofy and got along greatly. I liked it when we experimented and tried new things. That’s what made it really fun. Everybody was trying new experiences, instead of doing the same things day in and day out.”
When asked the same question,DeAndre added, “I made many new friends and became reunited with some old ones. My relationship with certain people deepened. I thought less about myself and more about others and what I could do to help people. I started helping people more, people that needed my assistance. That was a good feeling for me to experience. I tried not to be disrespectful or get into any arguments with my peers.”
As the Food Works Supervisor, I have the pleasure to work with and support these amazing young people. Hearing these reflections on their year at Food Works, it helps remind me of the real work to be done. All the ups and downs that come with being a farmer – unexpected weather, broken tillers, pests, missed plantings, bad germination – they don’t really matter; the most valuable crop we have are these inspiring young people!
Marshalia, a Junior at De La Salle High School sums up her experience this season. “I have been working for Food Works for the past 3 ½ years. I started in the summer of 2010. When I started working for Food Works I had no idea what I was doing and I never thought I would be in the position I’m in now. I am now the CSA Manager and a Crew Leader at Food Works. Some of the biggest things that Food Works has helped me with is public speaking, customer service, new leadership roles, stepping out of my comfort zone, and to succeed in school. All these things I am using today whether I notice it or not. But when I do think about it always reminds me of Mikael Brust and Ryan Schoonover, my two supervisors who have been here for me and who have really helped and pushed me to be a great wonderful young lady in society. Throughout my 3 1/2 years working for Food Works I have met so many people who have become really close friends and pretty much family to me. Each person at Food Works has their own place in my heart and that goes for volunteers and even the customers in the community who have supported us.”
To all the CSA members, farmers market shoppers, community members, volunteers, supporters, words of praise and encouragement sayers, you’ve all made it a fantastic season, thanks for supporting Food Works and these hard working young people!
See you next season,
Food Works Supervisor
Our CSA is designed for folks who want to support the Food Works program as well as receive great farm fresh produce! For 18 weeks, from mid June through mid October (Starting June 12), you’ll pick up your weekly share of beautiful, local, organic produce at one of three drop sites. You’ll also be supporting low income families in North Portland to receive the same beautiful, local, organic produce for free.
Food Works Farm Volunteer Groups - Food Works youth farm plans to host volunteer groups of 10 to 20 volunteers each Saturday this spring from 10a to 2p. Volunteer groups will have the opportunity to join Food Works youth leaders in their work seeding, planting, weeding, and maintaining their Sauvie Island Farm. Please contact Ryan email@example.com to coordinate a volunteer group or fill out our online volunteer group registration form.
We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, neighborhoods and schools. Our ages range from 14-21 years old and our ethnic backgrounds range from hispanic, african-american, african, and caucasion. Most of us were born in the United States, others weren’t, but the one thing we all have in common is that we all share enjoyment in farming together.
We are a group that likes to have fun, but still gets the work done. We always learn new things from each other. Being around diverse people helps us to understand other ways of thinking and working.
We are organic farmers! Our group allows us to learn from our farm and community and from each other. The program is ran by youth we make all the decisions. Over the past two years we have really grown our program, we have increased our farm from 1.25 acres to 2.25 acres. We have increased our community involvement and increased our business. Our goal is to educate adults and especially the youth about how food works. Which is the reason why Food Works hires 44 youth per year usually depending on the season.
We are an outgoing helpful group. We volunteer at places such as Oregon Food Bank, Blanchet House and also donate our vegetables to them. We gave 2,500 pounds of produce out in our community Food Pass Out. We are Food Works!
Written by: Prudence Eca & Destiny Giles, Food Works Crew Leaders 2012
Food Works is About Growing
- Growing the Farm: Youth develop skills in sustainable agriculture and land management by being engaged in all aspects of planning, planting, harvesting and caring for a one-acre certified organic farm on Sauvie Island. Adult staff partner with the youth to operate a productive farm operation which produced over 10,000 of certified organic vegetables in 2009.
- Growing the Business: Through operating their own farm business selling their vegetables at two farmers markets, to New Seasons Market, and soon to the new Village Market in New Columbia, the young people build a wide variety of marketable skills such as customer service, cashiering, retail display, planning, marketing and teamwork. The proceeds from the farm are rolled back into strengthening the program.
- Growing the Community: The Food Works youth are increasingly seen as ambassadors of health in the neighborhoods, and with good cause. Each week throughout the harvest season the Food Works team set up two free farmers market stands in their neighborhoods from which they donated over 5,000 pounds of certified organic produce directly to 750 of their neighbors in 2009 alone. The Food Works youth also serve as role models to the 6-13 year old children who participate in children’s educational gardening clubs that Village Gardens also operates in the communities.
- Growing the Self: Food Works youth learn key job skills such as respectful direct communication, time management, accountability and conflict resolution. Each youth sets personal goals for school and work and identifies their steps to success. Nutrition education is integrated into the Food Works program as well. Youth learn how to prepare and preserve vegetables from their farm and share healthy recipes with their customers and neighbors. Leadership development and enrichment opportunities are also an important part of the Food Works experience. In addition to participating actively in all aspects of program decision making, youth regularly present at professional conferences both locally and nationally.