Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Interview with a Brooklyn Youth Farmer

I recently had a moment to sit down with one of the Youth Farmers from the High School for Public Service to ask her about farming in Brooklyn. Brianna is a junior this year at the High School for Public Service, which is home to a 1.3 acre thriving school farm.

SM: Do you remember what school was like before the farm?

Brianna: I first heard about the farm in 9th grade. I overheard some people in the hall talking about a farm coming to our school, and I was like, ‘WHAT? How is that even possible?’ I wasn’t expecting a farm in Brooklyn.

SM: How did you first get involved with the farm?

Brianna: The first time I volunteered on the farm, I double dug along the fence around the whole front yard (note from SM: this is 600 foot perimeter!) so that we could plant flowers. There were maybe 20 of us out there that day. I still remember helping each other find rocks and passing them down like an assembly line to make a border for the flower bed that we dug. I think the flowers make the farm look really pretty from the outside.

SM: What was your experience like in the Go Green! class? (For readers, this is a year round curriculum that focuses on sustainable food systems, health & nutrition, media awareness, food justice, environmental stewardship, and of course…farming.)

Brianna: My first reaction was ‘What IS that? What does that MEAN?’ I knew it would involve the farm, but what would we be doing? The class is fun. You learn a lot. Learn about what you eat. I now look at nutrition information and read labels. I still eat it sometimes, even after looking. You learn to cook in the class, healthy foods. Making smoothies and juicing was really tasty. You learn where your food comes from. You learn about fair trade and have chocolate taste tests. We found out how workers are getting paid under the minimum wage.

SM: How did come to work on the farm in 2010?

Brianna: When I was applying for the Summer Youth Employment Program, I personally chose the farm. I thought it would be a nice experience to explore, because I’ve never worked on a farm before. I don’t think I had any expectations except we would be working with food and animals. I knew I would help water, plant…and replant. I didn’t expect all the workshops and field trips. I thought we were going to work all day. Instead it seemed like we were cooking most of the time. The days went by so fast.

SM: You REALLY pursued a job on the farm for a second season in 2011. Why were you so eager to work on the farm again?

Brianna: I was excited to come back and see different things, and there were going to be more farmers to work with. I was hoping to work more at the market. I like when people ask me what the vegetables are and how to cook them. I like doing cooking demonstrations at the market. At first, it was hard to figure out how to cook and also think about what to say to people, but it got easier. Especially when you know the recipe.

SM: After working for two years on the farm, you know how much work is involved to grow food. Is it all worth it?

Brianna: Kids can learn more about what they are eating and how they can make their diets healthier so life expectancy could be longer. The farm is worth it. We can get more for a lower price. The food tastes better. It’s not processed and it’s local.

SM: What would you like to see happen with the farm in the future?

Brianna: Veggie eating contest (laughs). That, and I would like to see the farm food eaten by students in the school cafeteria.

SM: What’s your favorite farm recipe?

Brianna: Raw kale salad. I made it for my family this Thanksgiving, and they asked me to make it again for Christmas.

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