Sustainable Agriculture Education: Sankanac CSA & Green Interns
This article originally appeared in our Summer 2015 newsletter. Thanks to Lyla Kaplan for her input.
Kimberton Hills’ biodynamic farm became one of the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the country, the Sankanac CSA. It supplies produce to the more than 100 people who live in the village, and approximately 250 local families. As part of our mission to contribute to the wider community, the Sankanac CSA is also an educational resource for people of all ages and abilities who are interested in learning about sustainable farming practices.
For several years, the Sankanac CSA has been welcoming young people to learn how to grow their own food, why it is important to themselves and to their communities, and how the CSA business model works. The goal is to plant seeds of knowledge and create a behavioral shift so students become active participants in their own health, the health of their neighbors, and the health of the land.
In addition to our own apprenticeship, intern and volunteer programs, Sankanac CSA has a summer partnership with the Triskeles’ Food for Thought (FFT) Green Internship program. Teens from Chester and Montgomery Counties become paid “Green Interns” and obtain hands-on experiences at different farms and kitchens to learn sustainable farming, cooking and nutrition, community service, philanthropy and entrepreneurship and are physically active in the process. The hope is that they will learn to make healthy choices, develop personally, and gain skills necessary for employment.
The Sankanac CSA hosts two Green Intern groups for three half-days, for five weeks each summer. Green Interns are devoted to intensive work periods where the interns are split into small teams under the guidance of Sankanac gardeners. To have a long-term impact, participants must develop job and life skills that can help serve them in their future work. Specifically, the Green Interns:
• Gain experience in all phases of growing garden vegetables, from seed to harvest
• Become familiar with multiple local sources of fresh produce and organic food
• Understand different models of growing and marketing food, including the community farms, farmers markets, and urban central market models
• Gain work skills, time management, and leadership skills which develop confidence
• Develop self-reliance and gain confidence in one’s own capacity to solve problems and bring about change
• Experience the satisfaction of “giving back” to the community through service and philanthropy
As part of their philanthropic training, the Green Interns help to plant, cultivate and harvest food grown for the Chester County Food Bank. The interns provide food to people in need; they see for themselves the impact of their labors; and they are empowered to act on behalf of others.
We have seen that when youth get fully involved with their hands and hearts, lessons are learned which impact their actions far into their lives. Feedback we receive always confirms that the impact of working on our farm – and with people with developmental disabilities – is immense and immeasurable.