The curriculum for Rooted at Carnation Farms is designed to empower teens to become inspired, educated change agents, motivated through their summer experiences to improve the food system. The first summer, youth in the Seed Crew learn farming, take workshops to gain a foundation of various aspects of food’s route from seed to plate, and serve at a food bank. Carnation Farms’ aim is for youth to return the next summer for the Root Crew, when they build on their knowledge and skills through advanced workshops, business experience at a farmers’ market, and service with a food- or agriculture-related organization for community impact.
Rooted youth do physical farm labor to gain first-hand experience understanding the work involved in producing healthful food, for example:
• Weeding, hoeing, harvesting
• Cleaning produce, following quality control and food safety procedures, preparing it for sale
• Feeding chickens, collecting eggs
Youth also participate in educational workshops on a variety of topics, taught by Carnation Farms staff and guest speakers, to strengthen their understanding of the complexities of the food system and spark their curiosity. Sample topics include:
• Merits of organic and conventional practices, horticulture, water use, environmental sustainability
• Planning nutritious meals for themselves, label reading, being a savvy consumer
• Crop and animal production in the food system
Rooted incorporates on-the-job training and team-building to develop their abilities to take on leadership roles, equipping them to be agents of change in the food system.
• Public speaking
• Conflict resolution
• Giving and receiving work-related feedback
Seed Crew youth (first-year program) also:
• Participate in weekly cooking classes taught by Carnation Farms’ Culinary Team. The purpose of these classes is for the youth to learn useful food preparation skills that they can use at home to feed themselves and their families.
• Serve in local food banks each week stocking shelves, sorting donated produce for quality and safety, cleaning, and working with volunteers. They also harvest produce on the farm and deliver it to food banks. The purpose of this service is to understand the extent of hunger in local communities and efforts to provide nutritious foods to those who need it.
Root Crew youth (second-year program) also:
• Work at Carnation Farms’ vendor booth at local farmers’ markets, tracking produce from soil to sale. The purpose of this work on Saturdays is to gain first-hand experience in the business aspect of agriculture. It also provides exposure to many steps in this aspect of the food system: production, harvest, transportation, distribution, marketing, sales, and donations/waste.
• Go on field trips in the Snoqualmie Valley and Greater Seattle area to see examples of businesses and organizations in various aspects of the food system, such as urban agriculture, companies practicing environmental stewardship, and food and nutrition policy-makers. The purpose of these experiences is to be inspired by people who are improving the food system and feel empowered to do likewise.
• Partner with a local community organization working to change the food system. Youth step into a more complex role, building on outreach and leadership skills they gained in the Seed Crew.
In 2019, Carnation Farms will accept 20 youth for the Seed Crew and 10 for the Root Crew. Rooted is managed by a Youth Development and Education Manager and led by three Youth Development Leaders.
In their own words:
Comments from Rooted’s first Seed Crew, summer 2018
“I realized I was taking poor care of my body – so I changed my eating habits and saw healthy eating in a better light, helped along by nutrition workshops.”
“Rooted has made me appreciate farmers more.”
“Some of the jobs, like berry picking or singling out the more meticulous weeds, can get workers into ‘the zone,’ a place of just absolute focus. Once they come out of it, I usually hear them express great satisfaction in the sight of a fruit- or veggie-filled basket.”
“The work we do on the farm at Rooted affects how much selection is offered to clients at the food bank, because a portion of the vegetables we harvest are brought with us to donate every week.”
“Working at Carnation Farms has definitely given me a greater appreciation for where my food comes from and has challenged me to think of ways I can contribute to our food system.”
“Fieldwork time always flew by, in part because I got to hear about the lives of my fellow Rooted colleagues. Getting to know them was one of the very best parts of this job, and I ended up leaving with life-long friends.
To read more comments from Rooted youth, see their blog posts