Before heading into another busy growing season at Youth Farm, we are excited to welcome Program Specialist, Zach, to our team! Zach has a background in both education and agriculture and is excited to spend this upcoming season in our North Minneapolis gardens with young people.
Join us in welcoming Zach to the team and getting to know him a bit better!
Q: How did you first become connected to Youth Farm?
A: Marcus [Director of North Minneapolis Programs] and I have known each other for several years and we have been talking about food systems together over the past two or so years. I had attended some events in the past and have seen Youth Farm at places like Open Streets, but the past year I got more involved with on-the-ground work and collaboration with the North Minneapolis team of Youth Farm.
Q: What is your connection to North Minneapolis?
A: I currently live in North Minneapolis and have also lived here for periods of time previously. I’m originally from the Rockford/Buffalo area and moved to Minneapolis when I was in college. Over the last 15 years, I have built connections, worked here, and made friends in North Minneapolis. Although I don’t claim to speak for North Minneapolis (or Minneapolis itself) as a whole, I AM interested in figuring out how to keep building mutually beneficial relationships, and what capacity I can bring to the work of food justice in combination with community members, and people like Marcus.
Q: What is your background in food and/or youth development work?
A: Before food and farming I was focused on education. I got a master’s degree in education right before I started farming, specializing in popular education for social change. I picked up a full-time farming job at Riverbend Farm in 2014 after graduation and that experience changed my whole perception on agricultural work, as well as my mind and body. I had done everything from substitute teaching to project-based learning with youth and adults, but I had never thought my focus would shift to food. Working on a farm helped me see how diet is connected to physical and mental health, and also how food systems are related to questions of sovereignty and liberation.
Q: Why is food and youth work important to you?
A: Simply put, youth are the future. Education, specifically alternative education or “popular education,” is so important. I want to see youth developing the capacity to be social actors in their own world. So often, youth programs can be paternalistic and lead young people down a very narrow path, but I know that youth can be in charge of their own trajectory in life. I want to be part of equipping young people with leadership qualities so that they can grow into and develop into the people that they want to be. I also know that food systems and taking care of your body and health are important parts of social movement building.
Q: What are you most excited for in your new role?
A: I am most excited to be consistently working with youth again. Youth have infinite energy and I really love being around that while also learning new things from them. I’m looking forward to developing relationships and thinking through tough questions in new ways. Young people’s brains are still open to learning in new ways, while adults often act more closed off to possibilities. I’m also excited to be outside working with plants!
Q: What is an interesting characteristic or experience you bring to the team?
A: My prior experiences fit well within Youth Farm’s mission. There are two that really stand out to me. First, my interest in popular education. There is a real depth of theory doing this education work and I got to work with a really dynamic group of people when I lived and worked in Chicago who were trying to apply “theory” to real life, and real life to theory. I am always interested in discussing this work with others. Second, I simply love being outside and staying moving – I think this is why I connect with young people so well. I find it important to find a balance between work, curiosity, and playfulness.