Incredibly, it is already the end of August! The final three weeks of the summer program were fast, filled with activity, and fun. The crew came together to take what they had learned throughout their summer and share it with the community, both in telling their personal stories and teaching others their newfound skills. When we think of the team that we have at LEAF, we talk about the stages of group formation: form, storm, norm, perform. After meeting each other for the first time in June, coming to understand what LEAF was and what they would be expected to do, and experiencing the challenges of working in a diverse group of people, the youth really performed as they wrapped up their summer experience.
During week 6, each crew went to the Carlisle High School kitchen to meet with CONNECT, a summer camp hosted by CALC and Dickinson College, in which young folks in the community are given the opportunity to “engage in and to grow through creative and healthy summer programming.” With LEAF, the CONNECT group comes each year to learn a little bit about cooking from our youth interns. Having spent the past five weeks in culinary lessons, the LEAF interns were ready to share their wisdom. They taught a lesson on stir frying - one of the first things they learn themselves - and creating flavor profiles based on different cuisine types. This peer to peer transfer of cooking knowledge was impressive to watch!
The same day that CONNECT visited LEAF, LEAF went out into the community! The Sick Beets crew hosted a cooking demonstration at Farmers on the Square, in which they made a kale caesar salad for people of all ages as they passed by. The salad dressing had been made in the LEAF kitchen for a LEAF Kits dish, and the croutons had been made a day prior by the leadership team. This collaborative and hand crafted recipe demonstration happened alongside a survey, both written and visual, in which people analyzed their own barriers to eating locally-sourced, freshly-prepared food. As a few of us expected, the majority of people answered one out of two things - money or time. While a few people that passed were confused by our notion of massaging kale for the salad (which helps the leaves become more tender and absorb the dressing better!), the crew had a great time!
The Thunder Spuds followed the Sick Beets the following week at FOTS, selling fully prepared versions of that week’s Kits meals. They prepared chicken and veggie skewers, salad, and rice, which customers were able to eat right there or take home with them. Through this, they were able to share with the community a little bit more about what LEAF Kits are and how they can be useful to busy families or individuals. They did an excellent job at representing LEAF and themselves, and nearly sold out of all the food we had prepared!
At the end of week 7 came one of LEAF’s biggest yearly events - Savor. This fundraiser is like a farm-to-table dinner, without the table! Six chefs pair up with six farmers from the region to craft small dishes that highlight the abundance of August in South Central Pennsylvania. From tomatoes to feta to weiswurst and more, the artistry that went into creating these collaborations, and their alcohol pairings, were exceptional. The farm was packed, with close to 100 people total at our VIP hour, and even more arriving for the main event. LEAF youth were scattered around the farm, engaging in meaningful conversations with the guests about their experiences with the program and what they had gathered. They also helped plate dishes for the chefs, and made sure the event ran smoothly. The night was an unbelievable success that allowed the entire LEAF team to honor how far they had come in such a short amount of time, and the unique beauty of the 2017 summer season.
Week 8 came all to fast, with so much to wrap up and complete before the crew moved on and returned to school. We interviewed each youth intern individually, so as to capture their feedback and perspective on the summer. We use this crucial information to evaluate our successes and areas of growth, continually improving LEAF as a community and organization, with the help of the youth we work with. It also provides a beautiful moment of reflection at the end of the season, after a couple weeks of hectic schedules full of partner farm visits, culinary lessons, farm work, and public outreach. Wrapping up with the LEAF family feast on the Friday of the final week, our summer season came to a close! Luckily, we will have eight youth working with us throughout the fall, on the farm and in the kitchen, to continue their experience being a part of the vibrant local food system.