I have been thinking a lot recently about the impact of our work at Youth Farm, particularly the impact of our work on my life. In the middle of a hot summer program, my brain full of logistics-did we order too many pounds of ground turkey? What did I do with that receipt? How do we arrange to get the van back from the Sergio’s? What do we do with the tree that fell on the farm? – I can easily get lost in the details of our work and lose sight of the broader vision, the reason I am part of Youth Farm.
11 years ago, fresh out of college and with no idea what I was doing I joined the Youth Farm team. I can’t tell you exactly why: maybe a feeling or maybe a sense that the work that was happening on the West Side of St. Paul at Youth Farm and many other places was important, that the people were important. Little did I know that these people would become my family.
In the 11 years since I have joined Youth Farm I have brought biological family and my friends into the fold as volunteers and as my sounding board listening to work successes and challenges. I have gotten married, many of the members of my Youth Farm family in attendance. I have built a life in Powderhorn Park not far (and sometimes a little too close) to several of our farm sites. I have struggled with work life balance which is what happens when your career is your passion and when the youth and families you work with are some of your dearest friends. I have learned how to cook for 2 or for 200. Along side Project LEAD staff, I have learned how to farm. I have come to understand what it means to try create safe space in our communities. I have learned some far less glamorous things as well: evaluation methods, how to cut down 100 square feet of burdock and where to haul it away, and how to apply fish emulsion to tomato plants. My partner and I have become godparents to Youth Farmers and have been to graduations, proms, and citizenship ceremonies. The youth that I worked with 11 years ago are young adults starting their college careers, their work careers, and their families. I have learned and experienced all this and much more with the support, stability, and grounding that comes with relationships that are built over time and are built with a foundation of shared values and hard work in exciting times and in really hard times.
These relationships are why the vision exists. A vision of community, of support for one another, and of creating opportunities for young people to contribute their skills and passions to the world. My Youth Farm family has done exactly this for me. They have created a community that supports me to be the best version of myself in the world and to continuously discover new things about myself and the world.
The end of the summer has been a bittersweet summer in the Youth Farm family. We have been to weddings and a funeral, have seen our long time Youth Farmer and Powderhorn Program Director Hashep move on from her position, and have welcomed babies into the family. It has been a summer that has called on each of us in the Youth Farm family to show up for each other to do farm work, to host events,to celebrate, and to mourn. It is weeks like these that remind me of why I do this “work” and that remind me that the vision is alive each day in how we support each other and in the relationships we build and foster.
I am so very grateful for my Youth Farm family and for the youth and families that welcome me and Youth Farm into their lives. Thank you for keeping the vision alive.