By Abby Massey
For six of the hottest weeks in DC this summer, 16 teens from Washington D.C. and the metro region worked over 90 hours to maintain Common Good’s urban farm. In addition to working on the farm, they volunteered on other farms around the city and Virginia and participated in 60 hours of workshops about gardening, nutrition, sustainable food systems and life skills. The crew workers’ ages ranged from 14 to 17, with varying levels of farm experience—most had never set foot on a farm while a couple of the youth had farmed on a weekly basis.
From the start, the crew workers were divided into crews A and B, naming themselves Ambitious Agriculture Amigos and Blackberries. Some immediately learned that farm work was not as easy as it originally appeared to be; Nyla Klusmann, age 14 said, “It’s a beautiful farm but working on getting it that way is not easy.” Others were surprised that they could taste the difference between produce from the farm and produce purchased in the grocery store; “I got to taste the vegetables and they tasted so much better than any store bought vegetables” said Ellie Ismail, age 14.
Throughout the six-week program, the 16 crew workers also learned about hard work, dedication and truly felt a sense of accomplishment. In fact, if you get a chance to visit the farm, you will see a new wheelchair ramp, built in two days by the crew workers. The majority of the youth noted that it was their proudest accomplishment throughout the summer. Others felt they had achieved a lot just by working on such a cool farm. Paris Tate, age 15, said that her “proudest achievement on the farm was learning how to harvest the different types of fruits and vegetables and also learning the different names of plants in the garden.”
Another project that the youth were involved in was the Friday Community Lunches where for four consecutive Fridays during the summer, crew workers teamed up with participating DC restaurant chefs to prepare and serve lunch to community members from produce grown directly on the farm. Restaurants that graciously supported the lunches include Smoke and Barrel, Baccio Pizzeria, Blind Dog Café and Whole Foods Market P St.
Not only did the youth work on Common Good’s farm, they spread their strength around the DC region by working at different sites such as Arcadia farm, Wangari garden and Colony House. At Colony House, a home for senior citizens, they created the home’s first organic garden and taught a workshop to the seniors on how to maintain the garden. LiWen Wu, age 16 said that they did this “so that the seniors can see that young people are the hope for the future.”
It is clear that the youth truly enjoyed their summer on the farm. In addition to learning farming skills, they learned the importance of a sustainable food system and a cohesive community. We enjoyed having them since youth truly contain our hope for tomorrow. We are proud of all that they accomplished this summer and hope to host the Summer Youth Program again next year.