Community Food System Summer Apprenticeship

Final report for YENC22-187

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2022: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Bandhu Gardens
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Emily Staugaitis
Bandhu Gardens
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Project Information


High school-aged youth will participate in paid summer apprenticeships to deepen their work with community food systems. These youth are already connected through their high school's environmental club, LEAP, to Bandhu Gardens' Community Farm that will host the program . We will be involving youth in other facets of the farm's management, such as harvest, sales and community building. Many of these youth have home gardens, but do not yet see agriculture as a viable career path. Through meeting other farmers and traveling to farmers market and conference, they will be exposed to diverse options for their food futures. 


Project Objectives:
  1. Expose youth to diverse farmers who also hold off farm jobs- arborist, teacher, accountant, chef, activist.
  2. Increase food work skills- growing, harvesting, weighing, selling, bookkeeping.
  3. Learn about culturally specific sustainable agriculture practices from immigrant and indigenous farmers. 
  4. Introduce students to other areas of the city and state that they have not been to (Eastern Market, weekly, and Traverse City for Small Farms conference).
  5. Deepen the appreciation that youth have for the value of knowing (or being!) your farmer and having access to high-quality, culturally-relevant foods.

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
5 On-farm demonstrations
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
20 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

8 Farmers/ranchers
30 Youth
6 Parents
1 Educators
4 Other adults
8 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

The youth apprentices hosted two on-farm education days which were attended by family members, farmers who participated in the program, and their school peers. They presented their experiences, led plant identification walks, and showed plant id signs they created. Additionally, they prepared and served herbal teas from herbs they had harvested, processed, dried and blended, as well as popsicles made from fruit from several of the farms we worked with. 

Our outreach plans changed twice due to one conference being rescheduled (Northern Michigan Small Farms Conference), and one being cancelled due to severe winter weather (Michigan Food and Farming Systems). However, Emily Staugaitis was invited to speak at the 2024 MIFFS conference in March 2024 and will present about this project through the SARE track.

Learning Outcomes

30 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • quality of life

  • food access

  • sustainability practices

  • mental health

  • cultural preservation/celebration

Results and discussion:

The 5 summer apprentices were able to share their work experiences with their families and peers through an on-farm day. They presented their observations and reflections, notes from farm visits, led plant identification walks and shared home made tea and popsicles made from fruit they had harvested and processed. On a second on-farm day, they shared similar information with school peers, and also hosted a cider pressing event. 

Quality of life, collaboration, cultural relevance, systems of reciprocity, and gardening as a mental health tool, were themes that came up again and again on the farm visits and during farm work days. 

The youth found the summer work experience to be so valuable that they are looking for funding to establish it as an annual program for members of LEAP (Leaders of Environmental Awareness and Preservation), their school environmental club. 

Additionally, a few of them said that the experiences were so meaningful that they would do it without pay, as well. They identified that the connections that they made with each other, getting to see other farms and parts of the city and spending time in nature as very meaningful. 

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:
Parents adopting sustainable agriculture practices:
Sustainable Agriculture practices parents adopted:

All of the families of the youth apprentices are already gardening and using sustainable practices. With each new farm visit, it was exciting to see the apprentices identify the things that their families are already doing. They reframed their notion of "sustainability" and found a sense of connection and ownership of the composting, crop rotation, no-till, water catchment, intercropping and season extension that their families are already doing. 

Success stories:

I'd like to highlight 3 significant successes from our program.

One of the greatest successes of this apprenticeship was to see the growth in communication, leadership and organization of one of the apprentices. Four of our apprentices were entering their senior year of high school and one apprentice was only a freshman. However, since completing the apprenticeship, she has become the president of the student environmental sustainability club, spearheaded developing a similar club at the middle school level, joined a culinary program, and started a club for students interested in health and medical careers.  I think that having her voice listened to equally, even though she was younger, in our very small cohort was very meaningful and empowering for her. Being able to focus on working deeply with a few youth rather than trying to reach many in a more broad way had direct impact of deepening the relationships we all had with each other. Two of the other youth apprentices received very significant leadership scholarships when they applied to college, which they both connected back to what they learned in our project. 

A second success story is seeing the youth apprentices see more value in their Bangladeshi culture. Many of the sustainability practices that we discussed and saw at farms and gardens across the cities are things their families are already doing such as composting, intercropping, crop rotation, water catchment, trellising to maximize space. The apprentices got to see these practices through a new perspective and value the practices that seem "just regular" to them. They were all surprised at how much weeding non-Bangladeshi gardeners have to do, since their home gardens are all planted so densely that they rarely have to weed! One of the ways this success played out was that in a culinary program, one of the girls volunteered to teach fellow students and the staff how to make samosas with home grown ingredients. 

A third success is that when the families of the apprentices heard that they had met other Bangladeshi gardeners, they wanted to buy produce like long beans, bitter melon and water squash from each other, based on what each family was or was not growing. These cross-family sales continued into the next season, as well, even after the apprenticeship was over.


This SARE grant is wonderful. The flexibility of expenses and minor reporting make it really manageable and gives educators a lot of agency. One suggestion that I would have is to have two tracks of funding- one for new projects and one for repeat/expanding projects. Being able/encouraged to apply for a second year of funding would allow for stronger "proof of concept" that would then potentially make projects more viable for other funding sources that want to see successes. 

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.