In Summertime, the farm resonates with noise and drama signaling the return of two seasonal youth programs: Catch Healthy Habits + Let’s Read Let’s Move and the Junior Farm Crew.
“Catch” brings the Senior Volunteers of OASIS and children from Ferguson-based summer camps together for an 8-week series of classes at the farm that begin with half an hour of quiet reading (that’s the Let’s Read component, intended to stem the summer academic slide) and then get active for lessons on healthy eating and fun physical games. The groups also learn where healthy food comes from, through visits to EarthDance’s laying hens and field taste-tests. Word has gotten around about the fun: this year we were asked to offer Catch twice weekly, to the kids of Strength & Honor and the Soul Fisher Ministry camps . Whoa! That’s 65 young people (more than double the number of youth participants in 2015). Many thanks to OASIS and the program’s 26 volunteers who aren’t afraid to get sweaty and silly as they encourage Ferguson youth to dance, skip, and march down a healthier path.
2016 represents a milestone for the Junior Farm Crew program. It is officially out of its 2-year pilot phase, but still evolving; meaning new components, new challenges, and new possibilities.
This year’s summer Junior Farm Crew is comprised of seven youth from the Ferguson-Florissant area. At 21, Danyelle is the crew’s eldest: she is back for a third year. When the JFC members shared a personal “watchword” during the first day’s icebreaker, Danyelle’s word was graduation: she is psyched to head into her senior year of college and graduate with her criminal justice degree. Tyrese, 16 and Keshaun, 17, are new to the farm; the JFC is a first job for both young men. Taliyah, 20, works hard at two jobs. After her shift at the farm is complete, she heads to her job as a server and cook at an Italian restaurant in the city. Robert and Michael, 18, are recent Ferguson-Florissant graduates, figuring out their next move and helping their families pay bills. Kayla, 18, is enrolled in the horticulture program at Meramec Community College. The youth are lead by Tiffany “Coach B.” Brewer, a graduate of EarthDance’s Farm & Garden Apprenticeship. Tiffany keeps busy as well. In addition to her role with Junior Farm Crew, she cares for her one-year-old daughter and a start-up business, Jo-Jo’s Juices, a fresh-pressed juice bar currently operating at the Soulard Farmers Market on Saturdays.
As always, Junior Farm Crew is rooted in work on the land: cultivating, harvesting, caring for chickens, and learning about the how’s and why’s of organic farming. The program is enriched with healthy cooking classes, training in public speaking (JFC members help to lead farm tours at EarthDance), and activities to build team spirit and teach communication skills. For example, each week the crew participates in “Straight Talk,” a structure for providing caring feedback. Cooking and nutrition lessons have been led by Molly Koltun, a dietetics intern from Florissant Valley Community College. Last week’s cooking project was beet chocolate muffins prepared in EarthDance’s solar oven.
One new component to the program is the Junior Farm Crew’s participation in EarthDance’s Community Food Assessment (read more about the CFA here). The crew has conducted vendor and customer surveys at the Ferguson Farmers Market, and is currently performing “grocery audits” at Ferguson food stores to check on the availability and price of healthy options. EarthDance is particularly excited about the Junior Farm Crew ‘s approaching capstone visit to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage for a two-day immersion in ecological living. Potential topics for study at Dancing Rabbit include local and organic food-raising, food preservation, natural medicine making, renewable energy systems, and decision-making & governance in a consensus-based community.
Would you like to learn more about our Junior Farm Crew? Please visit us on Saturday, July 23rd, 3:30-5:30pm for our Taste & Tour! Meet members of the crew and hear more about the Community Food Assessment. Click Here to RSVP.