For teenagers, summers can often mean long, lazy days of goofing off with their friends, taking cool swims on hot days, and mixing fish emulsion with water to fertilize plants and ensure they get the proper nutrients to thrive.
Or at least that last one is the case for students participating in the Spartan Urban Farm Fellowship, a program in which local students work at Corvallis High School’s garden and sell its produce at the weekly farmers market at Lincoln Elementary School. The fellowship, which pays students a stipend for working at the garden for a few hours three days a week, is sponsored by the Linus Pauling Institute.
Rebecca Fallihee, a garden educator with the Linus Pauling Institute’s Healthy Youth Program, said the program gives participating youths gardening skills and experience running the farm stand — which could make them more employable.
“One of the things I wanted to focus on is that high school students in their core curriculum may not be learning job skills … so I wanted that to be a core part of the curriculum,” she said.
Three students participate in the program for around a month at a time, and then a new crew of three replaces them.
The students in the program do watering, weeding and general maintenance and care of the garden and its plants two days a week, and do watering and harvesting Wednesdays before taking the crops to Lincoln Elementary School, and selling them at a stand there from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
Fallihee said the Lincoln Farmers Market was established in the summer of 2014 with donations from a local farmer — it sold produce at half the cost of produce at the Corvallis Farmers Market as a way to give south Corvallis an option for cheap, healthy food.
“There is a demographic in south Corvallis that needs more nutritional foods, but can’t afford to shop at (First Alternative) Co-op or the (Corvallis) Farmers Market,” she said. However, Fallihee said this year the farmer could not afford to support the Lincoln market again. At the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, the Spartan Garden Club, which Fallihee said was not very popular, reformed as the fellowship program and when the Lincoln market opened it sold produce from the CHS and Lincoln’s gardens. During the school year, the students in the fellowship were not paid, but they did get opportunities to tour and visit other gardens and urban farms.
She said the produce is now sold at 75 percent of the Corvallis Farmers Market’s costs. Fallihee said the program got started with a pre-college program grant from Oregon State University, but the goal is for the program to reach a point where its costs are covered by the revenue from the market.
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Adrienne Withington, who will start her junior year at CHS this fall, has been involved with the fellowship for about a year, and was part of the summer crew who worked until June 29.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for high schools students because it gives them work experience and is a place to relax and be outdoors,” she said. She said she’s learned farming skills at the garden and people skills from working at the market.
“After I joined the Spartan garden I decided to have a little garden of my own,” she said. She said her family already ate a lot of healthy foods, but she’s started growing her own carrots, arugula and cantaloupe.
Malachia Smith, who like Withington will start his junior year at CHS this fall, had not been involved in the garden during the school year, but was on the same work crew with her this summer.
“I thought it would be fun to be involved in the garden and do something productive,” he said. He added that he thought the skills he gained would make it easier for him to get a job.
“I never really watered our garden at home, but since being here I’ve been really inspired to work in our garden,” he said.
He added that through the program he realized he felt better when he wasn’t eating things like fast food.
“After eating healthy, I realized it made me feel better, which made me want to do it more,” he said.