Final report for YENC21-158
Sprout pays youth to participate in an intensive apprenticeship highlighting the sustainable urban agriculture practices of Franklinton Farms (FF), including hard sustainable agriculture skills in the areas of production, marketing, and distribution. Additionally, the program will be responsive to the needs of teens in our community by integrating soft skills of mindfulness, self-expression, and collaboration. The project will culminate in a self-articulated community engagement project or research project at the end of the summer at the FF Learning Garden, in their school, or at their home.
- To introduce urban youth to financially profitable, personally beneficial, and ecologically sound agriculture opportunities within their own neighborhood.
- To increase specific skills (technical and soft skills) for Urban Sustainable Agriculture.
- To introduce youth to ways of preparing the local produce.
- To coordinate student-led projects for community outreach/research and allow students to shape FF marketing and community engagement.
- To share the stories and learnings of the youth on social media, with the Franklin County Local Food Council, and at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) conference.
Educational & Outreach Activities
From September through November 2021, Franklinton Farms, in partnership with Franklinton High School, engaged in its pilot Apprenticeship Program – Sprout it Out Loud!
A note: because our pilot consisted of 5 participants, only 3 of which completed all 8 weeks, the budget allows for a second round, and a Spring iteration of the program is likely to be a successful continuation and improvement of the first program (it is likely that at least 2 of the three original participants would be interested in returning as “mentoring apprentices”, taking on advanced leadership roles, and that one apprentice who was unable to complete the program due to academic needs would be able to complete the program as hoped and intended.
Over the course of 8 weeks, apprentices spent three days per week engaged in programming on the Farms and in the community. They received daily working lessons from Farms Manager, Michelle, and/or Education Coordinator (and Learning Garden Coordinator) Molly Jo; they participated in daily cooking and food preparation activities using produce grown and harvested on the Farms; and participated in community engagement activities including career development training from the local public library (CML-Franklinton); bicycle transportation and maintenance workshops from the local cycling shop (Franklinton Cycle Works); visits to local food entrepreneurs (Red Door BBQ; OneLine Coffee); and a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory.
Increase technical growing and direct-to-consumer marketing skills for agriculture.
Youth demonstrate skills for preparing local produce (and an affinity for eating healthy foods).
Increase soft (conflict management, consistency, confidence) and hard (writing, resume building) workforce readiness skills.
Youth increase technical growing and direct-to-consumer marketing skills for agriculture.
100% of the three who stayed for the duration improved; it could be argued that all 5 participants improved their skills, even those who did not complete the program in its entirety.
All apprentices displayed an understanding of practices and concepts they did not have at the beginning of the apprenticeship. Farms’ Manager, Michelle, and Education Coordinator, Jo, noted improved understanding of botanical concepts, including plant families and plant identification, as well as an ability to identify insects and pollinators, and discuss lifecycles of plants and insects.
Apprentices gained understanding and skills in techniques including weeding (using different hoeing tools and hands), harvesting, and composting.
Apprentices displayed an understanding of the concepts and benefits of soil regeneration (cover cropping and composting).
Apprentices demonstrated an increase in identifying plant life through taking pictures of observations made on the Farm and asking staff about observations during programming.
Youth demonstrate skills for preparing local produce (and an affinity for eating healthy foods)
Apprentices participated in preparing and eating a wide range of foods made with produce from the Farms including salads, sweet potato burgers, fresh salsa, and kale chips. Apprentices displayed skills in using knives and cutting boards, and how to prepare veggies including Kale, Lettuce, Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Leeks, Garlic, Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cabbage for cooking and eating.
They regularly commented on how surprised they were to learn that they enjoyed eating salads, and new vegetables like Kale, Leeks, and Sweet Potatoes.
Participants demonstrated increased openness to eating nutritious foods through weekly requests to try new items and recipes for lunch. Farms staff utilized participant feedback to plan lunch menu on a weekly basis.
Youth will increase soft (conflict management, consistency, confidence) and hard (writing, resume building) workforce readiness skills.
All of them appear to have improved to a degree, though it may take time for some of the improvement to be clearly expressed or evaluated. How is this data best captured?
Apprentices displayed impressive growth and willingness to engage in soft skill development. They participated in difficult conversations regarding emotions and the feelings of others, and were almost always willing to address interpersonal and group conflicts with maturity and sensitivity.
We had fruitful discussions regarding work expectations, and they were willing to reflect on their supervisor and personal evaluations with a degree of sincerity, though I believe the workforce readiness aspect of the softskills objective could be reworked to have more success. There was not as much (little) participation in community outreach, marketing, and student-led projects as we’d initially hoped, though I think there is opportunity to grow here, especially in the Spring and Summer seasons, and as we strengthen the design of the Apprenticeship Program.
Apprentices identified behaviors of plant life and urban agriculture practices and how they could be adapted to impact their individual, family, school, local and national culture. For example, when learning about symbiotic relationships of plants participants identified communication skills that could better be utilized by family members to increase positive communication in their homes.
Apprentices verbally reported improved competence in professional skills to Franklinton Farms staff. The apprenticeship program provided participants with visibility to how a not-for-profit organization functions. Apprentices demonstrated increased timeliness and responsibility in showing up to work on time on a daily basis with required work attire, tools and paperwork.
This project is catalyzing a program that did not exist before. Our organization is exploring a new wing of educational efforts focusing on vulnerable young adults and all project developments are increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable agriculture.
Consistency is helpful -- multiple days in a row helps the apprentices get into a rhythm and develop muscle memory and other informing habits.
FPHS is a joy to partner with; they are extremely supportive and enthusiastic, and tell me every time I visit the school how the apprentices can’t stop talking about how much they enjoyed their experience, and that they seemed to learn a great deal and have displayed positive results having participated.
The apprenticeship program collaborated with Integrated Services for Behavioral Health (ISBH) to link program participants to mental health services. FPHS facilitated organizational collaboration through providing ISBH with initial contact information. ISBH staff then completed opening paperwork upon participant initial engagement in programming.
Our first apprenticeship was a success in many ways. We started out with 6 students, and ultimately 4 youth ages 15, 16, and 17 committed to the entire program. We witnessed remarkable growth in each of them as individuals, as well as a collective:
Quotes and final thoughts:
Initially, there was very little knowledge about plant identification; by the end of the program, each of them were able to identify vegetables growing on the Farms, herbs and flowers in our pollinator gardens, and Trees in the neighborhood. One apprentice, Aidon, when asked to identify a Cilantro plant first said, “Is it in the Carrot family?” (He was right, of course! And able to explain how he noticed the same leaf pattern and characteristics)
They gained an understanding of the general practices of regenerative urban farming, and why it is important and necessary to build soil. (From Jason’s reflection paper, “Soil is the foundation for all of life; if we want strong people, strong plants, and strong animals, we must feed the soil and make it strong.”)
They also continually impressed us with their efforts to embody mindfulness and conflict resolution practices. They were tough on each other, as is often the case in high school, but by the end, they became more and more accustomed to observing the impact of their words on each other and on their supervisors, being quick to apologize when they made hurtful comments.
They all tried new things every day, and pushed through difficult tasks like wheeling, shoveling and laying out compost in the high tunnel, weeding by hoe and by hand for hours, and harvesting sweet potatoes in soil that had turned to mud in rain and snow. They tried new foods every day, and remarked at how much they enjoyed salad with homemade italian dressing, veggie quesadillas, and sweet potato burgers.
On one of our community exploration days, Franklinton Cycle Works took us through a bicycle safety/navigation/and maintenance workshop, and then allowed us to ride our bikes to 400 W Rich St. to meet up with their classmates who were on a field trip. Martez, who had introduced himself as “a horrible bike rider” was not comfortable on a two-wheeler, so FCW offered him a tricycle to ride. He rode the tricycle with such incredible grace and good humor, tooting the horn at passers by and smiling the whole way. He said, “so I never learned to ride a bike; so what? that’s not gonna keep me from having a good time!”
Each of them started the programming with “absolutely no prior gardening knowledge”, and walked away with a palpable sense of care and appreciation for growing food and tending soil.
- Introduction to Community Farming Apprenticeship (Sprout it Out Loud!) Curriculum Overview (Course or Curriculum)