After several weeks of hard work throughout August, September, and October, the Fall Crew is over. Five youth worked twice a week on the farm and in the kitchen, preparing meals for our Kits program and doing projects large and small on the farm as part of our Ventures Crew. In the fall, there is still produce to be harvested and cultivated, while we also shift our focus to preparing the farm for the following season. Cover crop was seeded by the crew, with the goal of giving back to the soil and enriching it after all it had produced this past season. Two five-week sessions of LEAF Kits happened during the fall, sending out more than one hundred meals a week to families in Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, Camp Hill, Landisburg, Harrisburg and more.
In addition to the hard work done by the Ventures Crew, a total of eight youth interns participated in the Fall Internship, which had a new theme: social enterprise. It began with an introduction into the concept of social enterprise, and how methods of evaluation might differ from a traditional business or charity-based organization. Through six sessions, the youth worked hard, taking a close look at the financial impact and social impact of each of LEAF’s ventures. One workshop centered around analyzing different spreadsheets that demonstrated contribution margins, costs, revenues, capital expenses, operational budget items, and more. Far from being overwhelmed by or disinterested in the topic, there was a universal cry for more spreadsheets! Our interns wanted a clearer picture, and wanted to understand even more the reality of the organization of which they are a part. After looking at each venture from a financial perspective, they learned about ways in which LEAF analyzes its social impact. We looked at the logic model, and thought about how each thing that the organization does contributes to the mission we are seeking to accomplish. This information culminated in group presentations, in which the interns shared their well-informed opinions on the best direction for LEAF in the future. They answered the questions: What should LEAF do more of? What should it do less of? Are there any new opportunities for growth we should take advantage of? Their thoughts, in turn, will be shared with our board. The lessons learned were many, but, in particular, the power of youth and their ability to have a meaningful impact at every level of LEAF stood out.
To conclude the internship, the group took a trip to Philadelphia, meeting with different organizations also doing meaningful work in the food system. The first stop on the trip was the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, an organization in North Philadelphia. It began in 1973, initiated by a group of women called Grupo Motivos, seeking to create a safe space for young people and reclaim the community from the dominating forces of drug culture and violence. More than forty years later, the organization now works with young people in the area who are interested in the arts and urban agriculture. The gardens LEAF saw each had a cultural focus, that represented the makeup of the community in which they were located. Creating opportunities to celebrate and learn about their Puerto Rican heritage has always been a central point of their work. LEAF also saw the Life. Do. Grow. Farm, part of an organization called Urban Creators, in North Philadelphia as well. Participating in one of their community work days, LEAF interns had the opportunity to learn about their work and their origin, all while spreading mulch, turning compost, and enjoying their beautiful space. Finally, LEAF interns met with the Executive Director of Rebel Ventures, a youth-led non-profit in Philadelphia that developed a breakfast cake, using whole wheat flour and apples, that is now on the menu at all public schools in the city. After getting a chance to try the product ourselves, the youth spent time both explaining the work that LEAF does and asking a multitude of questions about social entrepreneurship in the context of Rebel Ventures.
Now that the season is transitioning further away from the hustle of the summer and early fall, LEAF staff are beginning to look back on the 2017 season and apply its lessons to what 2018 will look like, taking in the youth feedback at every step. After an incredibly successful year in the kitchen and on the farm, we are looking forward to sending out the annual report and celebrating all that the youth have been able to accomplish. For those who are looking to get a hold of some of our most popular products, like dilly beans and Early Grey peach jam, you can come to either the Market of Curiosities at the Carlisle Expo Center from 11-7, or the Chriskindlesmarkt from 9-2 at the Carlisle Army Barracks, both on December 2nd.