For 14 year old Caroline Prentince of Montclair Fusion Academy, this was her first summer spending hours in our Urban Youth Farmer program. Beyond learning how to plan and harvest vegetables, or care for chickens, Caroline learned the meaning of the mobile farm stand to the community, Read her story below and learn why she dedicated her summer at the farm this year.
I walk up to the gate and get greeted by the chickens making a racket. The chicken coup and the beds are filled with amazing produce, ready to be picked--eggplant, herbs, green beans, peppers, lettuce, even flowers, and so much more is all around. The smell of wonderful herbs like oregano, mint, basil, and lemon balm helps with the smell from the clean chicken coup. Sometimes there are even chickens running about, helping eat weeds.
Volunteering at Montclair Community Farms (MCF), as a youth farmer, has been an amazing experience. I have been a youth farmer for them since June 2018. I love helping with the chickens, harvesting, watering, and so much more. I love getting in the dirt and doing whatever I can to help. I also help sell at local senior centers. I hear about their daily life, and they ask me questions about mine. This makes me be a part of my community. A fun holiday event I was part of at MCF was the 4th of July parade, where we threw candy and gave out business cards. I was so delighted that I pushed through and gave out cards for the entire parade. That was my first time being in a parade! I saw so many members of my community there and cheering me on.
I helped sell the produce every week that I could. I was there every week, unless I was on vacation. I am so happy that I helped the community and brought seniors fresh food for a small price. I remember one day on farm stand when one woman bought $13 worth of produce;she left with about four bags! She bought that much because all of our produce costs two dollars or less, which is amazing!
I love the leadership skills I get from volunteering at Montclair Community Farms. I learned how to help other volunteers know what to do. I showed them where everything is when we had new volunteers. The people who run the farm also trusted me enough to let me do that when I had only been there for a few months.
MCF keeps me happy by giving me fun stories to tell. I remember one time when I was helping sell to a senior center, and we had sour cherries. Nobody was buying them, until one lady came by. She bought all of our cherries--two and half buckets! She was the first to buy them, and she took them all! She was surprised to see sour cherries because you can’t find them that often. I think she was going to cook them and make a jam or preserve.
Being at Montclair Community farms has helped me grow in so many ways. It has helped me get down in the dirt and get messy. I learned people skills and leadership skills. It gives me a purpose. It keeps me be busy and it gets me outside. Most of all, it has helped me reconnect with nature rather than being on electronics constantly. I look forward to continuing my volunteer work there.