Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Homegrown Youthmarket: A Farm Fresh Stand

ShaneFarm Aid 2012 was held on September 22nd at Hersheypark Stadium with a crowd of more than 30,000. Aside from the amazing performances, our annual festival had many exciting attractions. The event featured the interactive HOMEGROWN Village, which gave concert-goers an opportunity to meet farmers and participate in hands-on learning experiences. The village included more than 30 exhibits curated by farm and food organizations.

Another special feature of the event was HOMEGROWN Concessions®. Homegrown food is sourced by Farm Aid’s Culinary Director, Sonya Dagovitz. Since its debut in 2007, HOMEGROWN Concessions® serves food that is sustainably produced by family farmers, identified as local and/or organic, or engaging in other ecological practices, with a commitment to a fair price for farmers. Venue concessions and vendors comply with HOMEGROWN Concessions® criteria, which made Hersheypark Stadium the biggest family farm restaurant in PA on September 22nd!

One of Farm Aid’s own vendors that particularly stood out was GrowNYC’s HOMEGROWN Youthmarket. The HOMEGROWN Youthmarket is organized annually at the Farm Aid concert by GrowNYC, a non-profit whose mission is to improve New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities. GrowNYC establishes community farmer’s markets, providing the city with healthy, fresh, and local food.

GrowNYC’s Youthmarket model gives local youth an opportunity to run urban farm stands. GrowNYC’s Tom Strumolo teamed up with Farm Aid in 2007, and has managed the HOMEGROWN Youthmarket since! Youthmarket’s presence at Farm Aid not only features fresh local food from family farms, but empowers young people to learn marketing and sales skills and proves that concertgoers love farm fresh, local food. The net proceeds benefit both organizations.

This year’s HOMEGROWN Youthmarket featured local food sourced within a 100 mile radius of the venue: fresh fruit from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, cheese from Farm Fromage in Lancaster County, kiwi berries from Kiwi Korners farm in Danville, Martins Pretzels from Akron, and an assortment of fresh baked goods! The food wasn’t the only local component of the Youthmarket, the staff was too! Farm Aid reached out to the Milton Hershey School where we found out about their Agricultural & Environmental Education program (AEE). AEE’s mission is to support student success by engaging students in experiential land-based learning, and seemed like to perfect fit for our HOMEGROWN Youthmarket. We recruited 4 Milton Hershey School students who not only participate in AEE, but are active members of the school’s FFA chapter (Future Farmers of America). With the help of the school’s FFA advisor Nick Isenberg, the students came to work at HOMEGROWN Youthmarket.

Meet The Students:

Jesse Leahy’s grandparents own a farm in Hoytville, Ohio. He plans to go to Ohio State and major in Wildlife Management so he can be a Conservation Officer. He has worked on a number of different projects including wildlife management in MHS’s Agriculture & Environmental Education Program. He has also worked with fisheries, built deer exclosures, and worked with hydroponics in the greenhouse in the Ag Lab. He says FFA has been very helpful. He has made a lot of connections and met a lot of people. “FFA teaches you how to be a leader and strive for the best,” according to Jesse. He knows his future will have a positive outcome because of FFA.

Though Felicia Cook does not come from a farming background, she does want to work with animals – big or small – in the future. Her FFA project was Community Outreach. “FFA helped me in many different ways including improving public speaking, breaking out of stage fright, and event planning. Since I have been in FFA I have made many new friends and it has been a great experience.” Felicia is the current chapter treasurer.

Wynonna Gravenor’s family grows their own vegetables and has 7 head of cattle. They hunt for deer to save money for other items that they don’t make themselves. She does plan to farm like her family does now to feed her own family. She also would like to be an equine therapist. For her FFA project, Wynonna works in the horse barn on campus. “I love caring for them and wouldn’t want to give it up,” she says. She is also involved in advanced horsemanship as well as flower design in the MHS Horticulture Center. Additionally, she says she enjoys helping tend to the small garden that she and her housefather planted.

Austin Shay is the current chapter president. Austin did not have a farming background before attending MHS. He wants to pursue a career as an Agriculture Education Teacher and his FFA project is Dairy Goat Production. Austin and I conversed about the average age of the U.S. farmer being 57, and why it is vital for young folks in our generation to get involved with agriculture. Both Austin and I hope that people will find ways to support young farmers trying to get started in agriculture, or returning to the land, as well as finding ways to get young urban people more aware of the stake they have in eating healthy and supporting farm-fresh food.


(Wynonna Gravenor, Austin Shay, Felicia Cook, and Jesse Leahy)

Big thanks and congratulations to Tom Strumolo, as well as all of the farmers and students involved in this project! The sales were great, the best ever, and over 40 bushels of pears and apples were sold! Looks like fresh fruit at concerts isn’t such an unorthodox idea after all! Hershey Milton School’s FFA Chapter was awarded $400 for the students’ work at the stand, and the money is going to offset travel expenses for the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis being held right now (October 24th-27th). The MHS FFA has been unable to attend this conference in 4 years and Farm Aid and GrowNYC are thrilled to have contributed to their trip--we hope it was great!

To find out about organizations in your area doing similar work, or to locate your local farmers market visit FarmAid.org and GrowNYC.org.

About the author:

Shane Faherty has been a Farm Aid intern since June. He is in his fourth year and second co-op at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and is studying food marketing. He primarily works with Glenda Yoder, our associate director, on branding and sponsorship projects. In his free time, Shane likes to travel and loves going to concerts. Shane will be with Farm Aid through December.

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