By Allison Vandenberg-Daves

I’ve been working with Youth Farm for nearly four months now as an Off-Campus Student Employee with Macalester College where I’m a senior this year.  During that time I’ve been helping out in the gardens, preserving food, and facilitating our Thursday night cooking class with my amazing co worker Shanna, and our wonderful Project LEAD, Mimi and E-Don.  I’ve learned a lot of new skills, from how to harvest sweet potatoes, to how to make delicious applesauce, to to how to can jalepeño jelly.  Youth Farm has also given me another space where I feel at home in the Twin Cities.  Even after late nights of paper-writing, going in to work unfailingly left me feeling energized after a day full of good food, the company of my coworkers, and the enthusiasm of the youth farmers I got to spend time with.

This semester I saw firsthand that it is possible to create an authentic community experience around food justice that empowers young people to make decisions, cultivate relationships with different types of people, learn about food systems,  and invest in their communities.  I’ve learned during my semester at Youth Farm that this community is built by everyone who participates in it, from the staff who facilitate important conversations and maintain safe spaces, to the Project LEAD staff who are role models and friends to their younger peers, to the All-Stars and youth farmers who display leadership in everyday situations.  I feel lucky to be a part of this incredible community, and can’t wait to continue learning from everyone at Youth Farm next semester.