Since 2014, EarthDance has served Ferguson-Florissant area youth through the Junior Farm Crew (JFC) program. As a partnership with STL Youth Jobs, teens in this program earn $10 per hour for up to 160 hours of work. Today, Wednesday, June 3 is the first day of the 2020 season!
It is no surprise that our Junior Farm Crew program will have many differences this year. As of now, some elements that previously occurred on the farm, like community lunch and workshops, are happening virtually (special thanks to Chef Peyton for the online cooking classes!). However, not everything can be moved to a digital platform. For 20 hours per week, JFC members would normally participate in farm work and learn to grow food by doing so.
With on-farm programming still on pause, the question became, how can we supply youth in our community with an important paycheck AND teach agricultural skills AND offer the experience of working outdoors in a way that is logistically possible?
Tiana Glass is the Youth Educator at EarthDance, and has worked with participating youth to assess their needs and goals as she guides real-time pivots “to make sure what we’re doing is equitable, as defined by youth in the program.”
Implementing a youth-focused needs assessment at EarthDance is just one of many tools Tiana used to determine how JFC members can have a meaningful experience while learning the skills to become the future leaders of our food system. Thanks to her one-on-one support, JFC members planned and began work on personal gardening projects suited to their ability and individual circumstance.
“The overarching goals of the JFC [program] are the same. We can still supply youth with a paycheck and we are pivoting in the way that our community needs, not necessarily what is convenient for us. If they don’t have a house with a backyard big enough for a bed, we are going to supply them with pots and plants to take care of and watch grow. If they have questions for farmers in the middle of their project, we’ll get them that support too.” – Tiana Glass
Tiana is working with the youth to identify resources they need to thrive on their first day and throughout their summer job so that, hopefully, 2020 will be the beginning of a long career in urban agriculture.