Groundwork Buffalo, Field & Fork Network and Grassroots Gardens have come together to create Fresh Food Fellows: Urban Agriculture Entrepreneurship Program – an initiative designed to give training opportunities to Buffalo’s youth so that they may enter into, preserve, and grow the local sustainable food and agriculture industry.
In recent years, urban gardening and farming has gained substantial ground. Not only are there a number of local organizations dedicated to the effort, Buffalo’s refugees have also been a driving catalyst behind the movement. Now, the Fresh Food Fellows: Urban Agriculture Entrepreneurship Program intends to take these grassroots efforts even farther, by offering a six month course where young people can learn to grow, cultivate and sell produce, which will in turn help to cultivate a new generation of Buffalonians that understand the importance of growing produce close to home.
“Our program aims to increase awareness of opportunities in the growing agricultural sector as well as create new opportunities within the local food system to support community health. This certification program frames urban agriculture as an entrepreneurial endeavor and will help to develop a new generation of food and agriculture professionals in Buffalo, generating a pipeline of skilled labor that connects youth to real job opportunities in the city and region,” said Antonina Simeti, executive director of Groundwork Buffalo.
The organizational effort behind the program, which is kicking off in late March, is broken down into the following trifold manner:
- Groundwork Buffalo will lead recruitment and program oversight efforts and connect the fellows to other youth and opportunities within their broader Green Team Youth Program
- Field and Fork Network will adapt their Fresh Food Fellows educational curriculum to conduct classroom workshops on personal goal setting, resume writing, interview skills, workplace management, and business planning
- Grassroots Gardens will train participants in the cultivation, construction and operation of a market garden and farm stand
“The Fresh Food Fellows project allows us to work collaboratively to create a partnership that is greater than the sum of its parts. Each of our organizations works to strengthen the local food system and urban agriculture landscape in complimentary ways, from the perspectives of land use, access, nutrition and community engagement, and this project allows us to bring our collective areas of expertise together to share with and empower youth,” said Melissa Fratello, executive director of Grassroots Gardens. “Market gardens are a unique tool to introduce participants to agriculture on an urban scale, while serving the needs of the community.”
The three key partners behind the initiative have sought out local employer partners that will enhance the entrepreneurial program. The partners are Groundwork Market Garden, an urban farm located at 1698 Genesee Street that provides healthy produce to neighbors, and the African Heritage Co-operative Mobile Market, which is a membership-based co-op dedicated to providing healthy food to the East Side community, while providing gainful employment opportunities. Both Groundwork Market Garden and the African Heritage Co-operative Mobile Market will offer internship opportunities (two days a week) to motivated youth, while Delavan-Grider Community Center will supply classroom space and serve as a home base for a new, nearby market garden.
This latest urban farming program is made possible thanks to a two-year funding stream from a Green Jobs For Youth grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which was established to provide resources for communities that face environmental justice and unemployment challenges.
Interested youth can find more information and learn how to apply for the program by contacting Johnnie Fenderson at email@example.com. The deadline for applications is Thursday, March 8, 2018.
Lead image: Groundwork Market Garden