“Let’s go! Hurry up!” Shouts and laughter accompanied the thundering sound of sixteen feet hitting the pavement, racing down the sidewalk to the great befuddlement of neighborhood dog-walkers and passers-by. Ah yes, the vibrant energy of youth. For 4 weeks, from July to August, 5 Loaves Farm is much improved by the smiling faces, mischievous grins, and dedicated work of our summer youth interns.
Since its genesis as an after-school program, 5 Loaves Farm has welcomed and enjoyed nine generations of youth interns. Some stick around for a while and others, like fireworks, grace our lives for a short yet spectacular burst of time. For the past seven years, we have had the privilege of being a part of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Internship Program: just this past Tuesday, we inducted eight local youth through this program who together represent Buffalonians as well as various refugee communities.
In the few days that we’ve worked with our youth so far, we were blessed to catch a glimpse of one of our values lived out: connection. 5 Loaves Farm cannot run on the backs of our staff alone, we depend on God, the earth, and our community to carry us from day to day. It is hard to describe how encouraging it is to have extra help weeding our mesclun beds—work that would have taken our staff a whole day was accomplished in a mere hour! As our youth offer us their energy and time, we offer them skills and experiences that we hope will empower them and their communities. For many of our youth, 5 Loaves Farm is an introduction to the workforce.
We partner with 716 Ministries’ Work Readiness and Program to provide them with training and mentors, hoping to equip our youth with skills for further employment. We also punctuate the hours of weeding, watering, harvesting, and composting with team-building games and activities, building relationships, and encouraging leadership. We hope that our youth will receive from us not only paychecks, work experience, and farming know-how, but also a deeper sense of the many incredible things each one of them has to offer our world.
So if you happen to visit us during the week and find us running around covered in pudding, soaked with water, or with raw egg dripping from our heads, don’t worry. Cultivating a farm (and youth) is a messy, but thoroughly rewarding experience.