Roots and Wisdom Summer Youth Program

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $46,991.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Leslie Wiedmann-Herd
Roots and Wisdom


  • Agronomic: oats, potatoes, rye, sunflower
  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, tomatoes, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs
  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, study circle, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement, hedges - woody
  • Pest Management: biological control, field monitoring/scouting, mulches - living, physical control, row covers (for pests), sanitation, trap crops, mulching - vegetative
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, community services, employment opportunities, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Providing fresh, organic, and locally grown produce for people in need while engaging a diverse group of Schenectady County youth in working and learning together on the land is the goal of the Roots and Wisdom summer youth program. Inspired by the work of The Food Project (, Roots and Wisdom staff have developed a program that will enhance the work of local youth and hunger organizations while at the same time involve community residents in sustainable agriculture. Schenectady County in upstate New York is diverse in terms of landscape and people and includes urban, suburban and rural communities with a total population of more than 146,000. In 2000, 42% of county residents were living in the City of Schenectady. A significant ethnic contrast exists between the urban and suburban/rural portions of the county. For example in 2000, 87.8% of all county residents were white, while only 76.8% of City residents were white. Nearly 15% of City residents were black, while only 1% of residents outside the City were black; a similar pattern holds for people of Hispanic descent. Serious economic discrepancies occur between City and other County residents also. For example, in 1999 the median income for families with children under 18 countywide was $51,935: the median income for these families in the City was $29,548. In 1999, 25.9% of City families with children under 18 were living below the federal poverty level, while only 3.9% of families with children in the rest of the County lived in poverty. From the statistics set forth above, Schenectady County has a growing hunger problem. Between July of 1999 and June of 2000, six Schenectady County food pantries had 62,189 visits and distributed 559,701 meals. Four City soup kitchens served 79,772 meals, and five shelters served 123,582 meals. ` Between 1998 and 2002, the number of meals provided in soup kitchens, food pantries, and shelters increased by 25%. The incomes of the working poor have failed to keep pace with the cost of living, and this segment of the County’s population has become increasingly reliant on food assistance programs in the County. The incidence of overweight children and obesity is increasing nationwide and Schenectady County has been identified as a county at risk for obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 57% of New York adults are overweight. In addition, 28% of New York high school students are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Low-income children are at particular risk, due to poor eating habits and diets.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    All produce grown will be weighed and records will be kept as to where the produce is distributed. Also included will be the number of shelters and hunger programs served, and the number of farmers markets attended. The number of volunteer and paid hours worked will also be kept track of.

    Workshops and informal discussions will be a part of the day to day operations and records will be kept to evaluate what worked well and what needs to be improved. Youth will be asked to answer questions about sustainable agriculture, food systems, diversity, nutrition, etc. before the summer session begins and those same questions will be given at the end of the session. Thinking partnerships between adults and youth is critical to the success of the program, and a youth evaluation form will be developed for inputs on future improvements.

    Our client audience includes both the recipients of the produce and the participants in the program. Produce recipients will benefit from receiving fresh locally grown, affordable or free, organic produce. Roots and Wisdom participants will benefit by contributing in a meaningful work project that provides for county residents in need, while at the same time strengthening their connection to the land, community, and each other. Participants will also be exposed to healthier food choices and a more active lifestyle. Summer youth participants will receive a stipend for each day of work completed

    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.