Growing Our Future – Venture Semester with the Farm at VYCC
March 1, 2018 |
A VYCC Program Highlight by Andrew Whitehead, Food & Farm Program Coordinator and Ben Feinson, Food & Farm AmeriCorps Project Lead
Flash back to October of last year – with a co-lead and crew of highly motivated young adults from around the nation, I walk the fields of Cedar Circle farm in Thetford, VT with dozens of other local farmers. All together we see their field plan in action, discuss the future of cover cropping systems in Vermont, and question how we all adapt to climate change. In the evening, our small crew cooks together over a hot fire, discussing our reading from earlier that day on the microorganisms of the human gut. Soon, the crew comes to realize that just as biodiversity keeps our farmland resilient and productive, these laws of ecology are very much mirrored in the human body. After a night in a lean-to, and watching the fog burn off Lake Elmore over breakfast, we are off to High Mowing Seeds to receive a personal tour of a farm which breeds and prepares organic seed we use to grow produce at the Farm at VYCC. Then we are back at the VYCC campus, harvesting and packing this very produce for our Health Care Share, with a new and profound understanding of how complex an ecosystem our Vermont food network really is.
It’s a privilege to be digging deep into the story of our food with the Venture Semester program this year. This excitement is only eclipsed by the joy of seeing such curious, self-motivated young adults explore their own interests in the environment I love. It is no shock to me that this spring, our 2017 Venture crew are pursuing their passions in culinary arts, environmental education, and agriculture programs across the nation – and Abby, unsurprisingly, growing a hugely diverse array of vegetables and herbs in her 150 square-foot garden in Maryland.
During the long winter, our Farm team at VYCC has thrown its energy into finding the next Venture crew of 2018. These students enroll for one or two full months with us, living in the Yurts at VYCC, harvesting and preparing their own food from the farm, and of course, studying and working with experts across the state in farming, food production, agricultural extension, and environmental research. And woven into Venture is the same thread which makes an experience on a Community Farm Crew, or a Conservation SPIKE crew so powerful – that VYCC is a program about values, and personal responsibility.
Our agriculture studies and lifestyle at Venture are transformative, but they are more vitally a vehicle for the crew to realize that their own mind contains all the power they need to effect positive change in the world. That personal responsibility isn’t just about cooking ourselves a healthy meal, but taking ownership over our future and our interactions with others. Venture is a time to ask the tougher questions – what are my goals going forward? And what kind of person do I need to become to achieve this? It isn’t an easy challenge, and there’s no better model than a VYCC crew – thoughtful mentorship, and a tight-knit, supportive community – to do it.
We’re all excited to take the Venture program further in 2018. To build our partnerships with Vermont farms, to explore more natural spaces, and to make our diet even more local. And to have some fun doing it!